Russell Parsons: TV will remain a key player in advertising’s future

Predicting the death of television advertising has almost become an industry in itself.

Russell Parsons

There is a steady flow of reports from across the globe, picked up by media and marketing journalists hungry for a killer headline, that have been used as evidence of its irrevocable decline.

Ad-free subscription services and the allure of relatively cheap digital channels were cited in reports of Warc’s International Advertising Forecast earlier this year, which predicted that the internet will overtake TV to become the world’s biggest advertising channel in 2016, for example. Yet evidence from the coalface of UK marketing seems to be entirely contradictory. Not just in terms of spend – the latest local report Warc carried out with the Advertising Association found that brands invested £1.2bn in TV spot advertising in the first three months of 2015, up by 11.5% and the highest ever first quarter total – but also in the enduring fondness marketers have for TV.

Our main feature this week marks the 60th anniversary of the first ad to appear on British television. Marketers from some of the UK’s biggest advertisers talk about the possibilities TV still presents to increase brand awareness and deepen emotional engagement. It also details how changing consumption habits and new media buying technology are offering new opportunities and challenges.

What I found most revealing, however, is the way marketers see TV in relation to the digital channels that are seen as its biggest threat. Kerry Owens, brand director at McVitie’s, says a TV creative needs to “work well across multiple channels”, while others talk about it providing a starting point for online and other content.

Mark Ritson provides a robust and typically forthright defence of TV advertising’s continuing effectiveness, musing over how TV might be received if pitched to marketers now. Ecstatically, he concludes.

Spend on digital channels is rising at a faster rate than that of TV, people’s habits are changing and when all digital avenues are taken into account it does seem likely that investment in them will overtake telly at some point. None of this means the death  of television, however. For some, its role is the same as it ever was, for others TV has evolved and will continue to do so. But what no-one is arguing is that it doesn’t have  a future.

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