TV conference: a medium back from the brink

BamptonThe bruised, battered and beleaguered TV industry shrugged off its troubles to project an air of confidence at this year’s Marketing Week TV conference.

Agencies and media owners were in buoyant form, despite the ever-growing prominence of the internet and the unanimous feeling that TV can never be the force it once was.

Indeed, two delegates at the two-day conference in Bath, IDS managing director James Wildman and his counterpart at Viacom Brand Solutions, Nick Bampton, proclaimed the next “golden age” of TV.

Bampton told the audience that the rise of search revenue, which accounts for 75% of internet spend, was driving a commoditised market eventually necessitating a move back to brand advertising.

“Branded advertising will recover and with television and its derivatives being at the heart of this approach, it’s my view that we are on the verge of a new golden age for TV advertising,” said Bampton, talking about the future of TV as a digital medium. He added that, despite an “annus horribilis” in 2006 and a poor start to 2007, TV ad revenue was likely to grow this year.

There was consensus among speakers on most of the key issues, with perhaps only Mark Connelly, head of commercial development at Yahoo!, rocking the boat by claiming that internet TV, or online audio visual content, offered advertisers solutions and accountability that traditional television could not.

Bold optimism
“Digital” has been used to disparage traditional media by big players including Bill Gates, said Bampton, yet television had been a digital medium “before most people were using the internet”. “Digital is not the threat to TV, it’s the opportunity,” he reiterated.

“It’s high time we regained some confidence in the medium and started to recognise that TV is going to play a major role in the future of advertising.” 

Fragmentation – or segmentation – of the audience and the rise of catch-up TV means the mass audiences of the past are gone for good but niche audiences are easier to target.

IDS’ Wildman believes some people in the industry seem unable to forgive TV for not “providing them with tens of millions of viewers simultaneously”. But he asks if such a simultaneous mass is indeed stronger than the same number of people being exposed over several hours.

Such issues, together with concerns over current measurement and accountability models and metrics, were a constant thread that ran through the conference.

From the opening remarks made by conference chairman Jim Marshall, UK chairman of Starcom Group, much of the conference talk was about how antiquated and outdated measurements were holding the industry back.

The industry was “burying its head in the sand”, said Marshall. Television marketing body Thinkbox has been keen to initiate and promote its independent qualitative – rather than quantitative – research into ad viewing and avoidance.

Reappraising ads’ effectivenes
Research and strategy director David Brennan believes not enough emphasis is placed on the engagement and awareness of ads. “The metrics don’t work,” he said. “We have been employing the wrong measures for the success of ads.” 

So as television becomes more a part of the marketing communications mix rather than its primary driver, there are calls to break down the barriers. As Carat head of planning Steve Hobbs said/ “Drop the silos, drop the politics and think about the clients.” 

Much exchange of opinion was about television’s future and where the medium will sit in an increasingly digital, on-demand and consumer-savvy world. A shell-shocked industry has been shaken out of its complacency and for the first time in a long time is having to sell for a living.

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