The liberation of TV expands opportunities
TV is the most effective medium by far, and innovative new platforms and enhanced technology mean the public’s love affair with TV will continue, so advertisers must continue to embrace change and make TV part of an integrated campaign. By Tess Alps, Thinkbox
Alot of words were wasted this year – think Steve McLaren’s team talks or Jodie Marsh’s wedding vows. But the main culprits were those people claiming we’re all now doing something else instead of watching TV. And when was the amount of time spent with a medium ever a good indication of its effectiveness as an advertising medium?
TV is thriving. Our biggest and best-loved medium is growing. We’re watching ten minutes more per day than in 1997, according to BARB, and this is without taking into account out-of-home or non-broadcast viewing, which is likely to rocket in 2008. Commercial impacts have also reached record levels in 2007.
TV is not just growing, it has had babies too. Broadcast TV is still going strong, but now we are witnessing the coming of age of IPTV, TV on demand, Web TV and legal downloads. The announcement of the tantalisingly named ‘Project Kangaroo’ by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 shows that TV is finally embracing the internet and being liberated by it. And, if you need more proof of TV’s growth, just glance at some of the names trying to become TV companies.
Match made in heaven
The truth is that TV and the internet were made for each other. A lot of the major innovations happening online are actually coming from TV. In addition to TV on-demand services like Kangaroo and Sky Anytime, IPTV services such as BT Vision, Tiscali and Virgin Media, or online TV content aggregators like Joost and Babelgum, are expanding the TV universe.
TVs and related technologies like digital TV recorders are flying off the shelves like never before. DTRs, like Sky+, encourage people to watch more TV and even more ads than they did before. Yes, honestly. People are voting for TV with their wallets. Sales of TV equipment and access are at record levels. Indeed, sales of flat-screen TV sets saved electronics retailers in 2006 and have been even more buoyant this year. 2008 will be no different. We’re buying TVs that are an inch bigger every year: this is not because we don’t want to use them.
What we do watch on them is looking ever better and high-definition TV is a hugely exciting phenomenon which UK advertisers should welcome. To be globally competitive, the UK needs to produce more HD content, and research in the US shows that there is around 10% more engagement with TV advertising shown in HD.
Keep raising the bar
2007 may go down as the year of the gorilla, but Cadbury’s drum-bashing primate was just one of a raft of fabulous, inspiring and iconic TV ads, including Sony Bravia’s reproducing PlasticineTM bunnies, Guinness’s dominos on a giant scale, a Skoda made of cake and countless others. UK TV has had an awe-inspiring year and I see no reason why the bar can’t be raised even higher next year, and ideally the same levels of creativity applied to sponsorship and red – and the forthcoming green – button DALs and VALs.
2008 may also mark the moment when ad-funded programmes come into their own. There are certainly signs of increased advertiser interest in AFP – such as the COI’s award-winning ‘Beat: Life on the Street’ – and this is an area of opportunity yet to be fully exploited.
I hope that 2008 will see the continued and expanded proof of how effective TV is for advertisers. Great strides have been made here recently. Research has found that ad campaigns which use TV significantly outperform those that do not. Our own Payback Study with PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that TV campaigns deliver far more returns than any other medium and over a longer period. And 2008 will see the findings of our joint research with the IAB into the effectiveness of TV and the internet when used together. People do spend more time with TV than any other medium, but it is the quality of the time they spend and the engagement with ads, as well as the effectiveness of the ads, that makes the difference.
TV created some problems for itself in 2007, but the public knows TV companies will make amends and trusts them to sort out any issues. I hope that 2008 will, finally, be the time when the truth is spoken about TV. I hope we will see no more superficial research that has been the equivalent of asking people in the Old Trafford car park what team they support. One thing that definitely won’t change in the coming year is our affair with TV. People will continue to love TV, only now they can love it whenever, wherever and however they want.
Tess Alps,Chief Executive, Thinkbox
Broadband, interactive and high-definition technology are helping advertisers to see a new face of television. By Catherine Turner
The past year has been a turbulent one for television. If 2007 was the year of broken trust for broadcasters eager to eke out extra revenues through services such as premium rate phone-ins, it was also a year when TV advertising started to bounce back. Despite a raft of new legislation barring “junk” food in and around children’s programming (and with further restrictions mooted), TV overturned dire predictions with revenues expected to be up on 2006 – and that trend should continue over 2008.
BSkyB director of brand strategy and marketing Robert Tansey says: “With more brands competing across an expanding range of products and services, consumers have never been faced with such choice. Not only this, but new technologies and new platforms are also bursting through into the mainstream.”
Add a wealth of choice for advertisers as well as consumers and the picture looks promising. Television may be one of the so-called traditional media, seemingly less exciting in a world obsessed with “new” but it has some tricks up its sleeve which, coupled with other media, should re-establish it at the front of marketers’ minds.
Channel 4 head of marketing for digital channels Cameron Saunders says the industry is getting more exciting with brands having more ways to get involved. “Historically we have created content and stuck other people’s advertising around it. But that is starting to change for owners, advertisers and agencies,” says Saunders.
Rethinking the 30-second spot
“There is a danger that advertisers regard a TV ad as almost a factual, complete sell in 30 seconds, but advertisers need to rethink that.”
Although C4 enjoys “free TV advertising” through promotional airtime, it looks to other media to expand on it. For instance, for its youth series Skins, C4 is moving away from traditional other media such as print and posters and into social platforms and live, exclusive events.
Saunders says: “Young people have never been more continuously connected to media and to each other. They’re voraciously consuming content and never stop communicating. Our biggest challenge is to shift from using TV to create awareness, to building integrated campaigns that truly engage our target audiences.”
The convergence of TV and broadband provides new ways to deliver campaigns that “live” across platforms, playing to the strengths of each medium and to the media consumption habits of young people. TV, he believes, can still reach the internet age audience.
That, though, may be scant recompense for those brands who believe that TV’s biggest trick, that of guaranteeing critical mass, is being eroded. Will Saunders, partner of communications planning agency EdwardsGroomSaunders, suggests this is one of the biggest challenges facing advertisers using the medium.
In 2008 this problem will be more acute: the England football team’s failure to make the European Cup finals means there will be no big sports events to “prop up the schedule” and interest in TV series such as Big Brother is waning.
TV and its accountability will also be increasingly under the microscope with marketers facing “immense pressure” to justify brand expenditure on TV, not least because of growing fears about a credit crunch and general economic uncertainty. Yet, TV is working harder to prove it is a core part of any marketer’s plans. Even the big channels are becoming more innovative and flexible when it comes to meeting clients budgets and briefs, he says.
James Wildman, managing director of IDS, the sales house for Virgin Media, UKTV and Setanta, is confident that the medium offers more opportunities than ever for advertisers. He says: “There is a palpable sense of excitement for television’s fortunes in 2008.”
Yet while ad revenues look set for a modest increase overall, and a big jump for digital channels like IDS’s, the big news is the increasing willingness of advertisers to tailor their use of TV to their individual requirements. “When they do, by using the best channels, the ideal techniques and by integrating online and other activity, the results can be spectacular,” he says.
Selling the screen
But, while interactive and red button activity become more prevalent and less costly, such activity remains niche and EGS’s Saunders believes TV owners should remain focused on TV’s core product and benefits. “Broadcasters still need to set themselves apart from other audio/visual channels. They mustn’t try to be the internet because TV can do all sorts of things the internet can’t – and vice versa.”
Sponsorship is increasingly being regarded as more than cheap TV airtime, and Saunders expects the trend to continue, suggesting brands leverage any such partnerships through their business from packaging to point of sale and posters. “Too often sponsorship is still viewed as a badging exercise or cheap airtime. The real opportunity should be to see how it plays a part in driving business success.”
Meanwhile, last month the European Parliament approved plans to allow limited product placement in programmes from 2009. Next year marketers will start exploring such broadcast opportunities ahead of any expected relaxations.
There are also premium and prestige opportunities, too, offered via platforms including satellite and cable, with high definition, catchup TV and digital video recorders such as the Sky-Plus box growing in popularity. Brands such as Sony Bravia, Ford Mondeo and Adidas created HD campaigns to distinguish themselves as high quality, ahead-of the-curve advertisers.
Tansey adds that 2008 will see further demand for HD services, digital video recorders and “integrated entertainment experiences” delivered not just through the TV but also through high-speed broadband networks, mobile phones and other portable devices.
As Tansey says: “TV is an emotive channel and we must use its sense of drama, excitement and energy to make a mark with marketing.”