Marketers are having a Back to the Future moment: AdWeek, MarketWatch, MarketingProfs, and others have sung the praises of television. And in January, the CMO of Coca-Cola presented analytic proof that TV delivers stronger ROI than digital.

With cable-cutters, cord-nevers, and Millennials’ preference for over-the-top (OTT) TV viewing, it’s easy to predict the demise of television. But the fundamentals of advertising haven’t changed, even as the media has — people won’t buy your product if they’ve never heard of it, and purchase decisions are more emotional than rational. Despite fragmentation, linear TV still is more reliable in delivering reach than any other medium, and its strength lies in effective, emotional storytelling.

Cracks are forming in digital’s façade as a cure-all for marketers’ woes. TV skeptics, take note:

  • Consumers don’t hate commercials as much as you think. Believe it or not, there are more US online adults who say they actively engage with TV ads than with digital ads. My report How To Advertise To Consumers Who Hate Ads looks at the data, and overall, TV fared better than most other ad types in terms of consumer receptiveness.
  • All video ads are not created equal. While Sheryl Sandberg can reasonably claim that Facebook has a Super Bowl-sized reach every day, it doesn’t mean that a video ad on Facebook has the same impact as an ad on the televised game. Research by Nielsen Neuroscience shows that the TV screen has greater impact than a tablet or smartphone.
  • Hypertargeting isn’t always a silver bullet. While brands should always aim to have relevant advertising, hypertargeted audience segments aren’t always the right answer. Products with broad consideration sets will always turn back to TV because of its broad reach. Proctor & Gamble (P&G) learned this the hard way when it tried targeted Febreze advertisements. After limiting its ads to Facebook users who are pet owners or part of large families, it found sales stagnated. It then scaled back on targeting, and broadened its advertising to anyone over 18.
  • TV planning and buying is going data-driven and audience-based. The proverbial 50% waste in advertising is nowhere more prevalent than in TV: The large audiences guarantee a significant proportion of viewers will have no interest in the advertised product. As I predicted three years ago, the advent of massive data from set-top boxes and Smart TVs, along with big data analytics, is shifting the TV industry away from mass age/gender audience definitions to more specific definitions based on behavior or the advertiser’s first party data.

While old-school TV advertising and new-school, post-digital marketing may seem to be at odds with each other, the customer life cycle will always begin with the discover phase. No medium yet rivals TV’s visual storytelling and mass reach. While it’s easy to grumble about TV as an antiquated advertising medium, the reality is it’s not going anywhere in the near future.

The question marketers face is not how to replace linear TV, but how to change outdated planning and buying processes to take advantage of advanced TV practices. They should then supplement their advanced TV with digital ads that can reinforce the brand message, reach elusive consumers, and remind consumers of the brand closer to the point of sale. Otherwise, marketers will be stuck in 1955 with a powerless DeLorean.