TV or Not TV

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: TV or Not TV

Television is the most effective advertising medium ever invented. No ifs, buts or maybes; ask anyone to recall their favorite ad and odds are it will be a TV ad. Ask the world's biggest and best marketers to nominate the last medium they would ever remove from their plans, and it will be TV.

Back in the day (old git alert) buying campaigns on TV was not easy but it was one dimensional. TV was a seller’s dream. A limited supply meeting ever-increasing demand within a monopoly (ITV back then also sold Channel 4). Revenues grew way ahead of any inflation despite what was referred to at the time as a "catastrophic ratings decline." There was a whiff of arrogance.

Sales directors sailed past in their limos whilst advertisers waited for the bus (and in case you think that’s a bit colorful I witnessed that exact thing at the annual TV Conference in Copenhagen in 1987).

Regardless of the behaviors of certain larger-than-life ITV sales directors advertisers kept coming back for more. Why? Because it worked. ITV had laid the groundwork, brilliantly. They ensured audiences were well measured, so you could buy with confidence. They invested in a comprehensive research program into consumer purchases, called the Television Consumer Audit, or TCA, and used it to demonstrate effect to even the most cynical of advertisers.

As an agency you bought ratings for a price. You made sure you got what you paid for. Auditors ensured you paid the right price for whatever it was.

TV was a bought medium, one dimensional. Within this world ITV ruled -– the Big 5 ITV companies controlled every aspect from deciding on what shows were made for network distribution and by whom, and when they would be scheduled. Independent producers didn’t get a look in. This was a chumocracy, par excellence.

Today, we talk accurately of video, not TV. Legacy broadcasters have a fight on their hands. They are still amongst the most effective of advertising channels, but they no longer take the money as a matter of course. Money follows audience (unless you’re in a monopoly when money flows in despite audiences) even when the way that "audience" is defined is questionable.

Planning is at a premium. Concepts like brand safety, verification, context, sustainability, attention and sales outcomes are all out there and are being discussed.

Within this world broadcasters still offer advertisers great benefits. They’re the premium, the quality channel in a world where "premium" is worth a lot. No-one worries about brand safety, or verification on TV; context is out there and can be recognized and / or acted upon.

"Premium" is a planning conceit; it needs definition, a shape in order to be recognized. To stand out from the online platforms, from the fraudsters and their bots.

Today’s media battles are fought by planners, not buyers. Buyers buy plans; planners don’t post-rationalize buys. I know that’s not as black and white as I’ve painted it, but it’s a darn site better than it used to be.

The planner’s world is a cross-media one -– with advertising as one technique to consider alongside other communication channels. Within advertising there’s every channel you’ve ever heard of and some you haven’t. Within channels there are vehicles. Within vehicles there are buying opportunities for the buyer to unearth.

At the top of that pyramid sits the advertiser with decisions to make. Decisions that need maps, guidance, or as we refer to it, "research." Research that needs to be controlled and paid for by the beneficiary of objectivity in planning. That beneficiary is the advertiser; the benefit a more effective use of his budgets.

The focus has shifted from buyer to planner, from channel to advertiser. Many would say that’s where it should have been all along.

This switch in focus from buyer to planner to advertiser is behind Origin and other related WFA-driven programs. From the outside, ISBA seems to be driving Origin along single-mindedly, hiring well and setting up the mechanisms to fund their work in part via an advertiser levy.

The broadcasters, not just in the U.K., should support such an initiative. They need to be on the inside, promoting their values of quality and ensuring those qualities are embedded in the program. Their hesitation driven by concerns over the online giants is understandable, but better to be on the inside influencing outcomes, not howling at the moon on the outside.

Remember when the online evangelists told us TV was dying; and Tess Alps made her famous remark that far from dying TV was having babies?

The babies are now grown-ups. Time to move on, to make their mark.

Self-published at MediaVillage through the platform.

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