Marketing Week TV conference ’07 debates the nature of convergence

Just over a year ago Marketing Week’s TV 2006 conference showed a medium in the middle of an identity crisis, struggling to define itself and reacting too slowly to change in a fast-paced digital world.

June 2007, however, shows a much changed television landscape. Twelve months ago, Charles Allen was still at the helm of the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster ITV; cable company Virgin Media existed only as the struggling NTL and Telewest brands; the BBC had no Trust; and no broadcaster had launched an internet on-demand service – either ad supported or on subscription. The country also sits on the cusp of digital switchover, with the analogue signal being switched off from next year.

One of the core themes running through TV Transformation 2007, being held in Bath next week, is the future of television advertising.

Things are changing – and they’re changing fast, but advertisers, media agencies and owners still all face an uphill struggle grappling with how to keep pace. The two-day conference aims to focus on the changing nature of how consumers engage with TV and how advertisers, broadcasters and agencies can exploit an evolving medium in an age where television is unlikely to ever again be the dominant force it once was.

Advertising Association figures released earlier this month show that television advertising declined for the first time in six years in 2006. The AA figures reveal that TV advertising fell by 4.7% to £4.59bn from 2005.

Experts predict that spend will fall once again in 2007. As conference chairman Jim Marshall says: “For the first time in recent history [TV] advertising revenue will go down for two successive years. That is unheard of.”

Marshall, chairman of Starcom UK, continues: “TV has always sat rather arrogantly in a position of perceived power and it was absolutely bombproof. Yet it sits there now as part of a mix of communications activity. TV has found that difficult to accept and adapt to. Television has gone through this awkward phase.” The key then, is where television – or increasingly audio/visual services – will fit in the overall marketing mix, and which, if any, of the nascent and maturing non-spot advertising to target.

Debate at the conference will be led by speakers who include Viacom Brand Solutions managing director Nick Bampton, who looks at TV’s future as a digital medium and its effects on advertising, and ITV head of mobile Melissa Goodwin, who explores the benefits and risks for mobile TV.

Meanwhile IDS managing director James Wildman will call for consensus on where media fragmentation is going. Carat head of planning and integration Steve Hobbs will warn how important it is to put the right emphasis on TV within an integrated campaign and no longer is television a must-have, catch-all strategy.

Other brands, companies and agencies sharing their views at TV Transformation 2007 include the BBC, Wieden & Kennedy, WCRS, Thinkbox, T-Mobile, Peugeot and the British Heart Foundation.

Marshall concludes: “Clearly the key theme is we are now entering the age of convergence and how it liberates the viewer in the way they watch and also interact with the TV. It brings a whole host of interesting opportunities and questions for the advertising industry.”

A note of caution, however. While opportunities afforded by emerging platforms and new technology excite and terrify in equal measure, most agree that television’s future lies in the age-old principle of content.

For further information contact Anna Knight at anna.knight@centaur.co.uk or on 020 7970 4351

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