Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Traditional TV advertising is dying and other boy crying wolf stories

In his latest piece for Newsline, Greg Grimmer, partner, Hurrell Moseley Dawson & Grimmer, says that the death of TV advertising has been greatly exaggerated.

Elsewhere on MediaTel you will find some fine and some aphoristic comments on ITV and the tough job facing the incoming chief executive. As always when the traumas affecting ITV are covered by the fourth estate, not far away there will be further commentary discussing the fact that traditional TV ads are dying.

I've always thought that this was an unfair debate. Traditional is such an odd word to describe such a vibrant media. The dictionary definition? "Observant of tradition; attached to old customs; old-fashioned."

Who in any media wants to describe themselves as any of these things?
When did a media or creative brief ever ask for a traditional solution?
Who thinks that a live TV commercial featuring sky divers is in any way traditional?

Let me answer these for you. No one, never, and not on your Nelly.

For those readers of a certain vintage the golden age of television advertising may seem a distant memory. But traditions are for Morris dancers and pipe smokers, not for cutting edge media luminaries like you, dear reader. So, lets go find the problem - why did the golden age disappear? Who is responsible for the fact that the majority of Britain's best loved TV ads are for brands that will never air again? Where are the Smash , Hamlet and Cinzano ads of the 21st Century? Who told Levis, Boddingtons and Tango to stop using TV and spend their money on other media, despite building up their businesses via Television? The usual suspects; all of us are guilty in some shape or form of killing the joy of TV advertising.

Media planners have become intoxicated with online and ambient solutions, diverting money to stunts that will only be seen by their Charlotte Street Facebook friends.

Creative agencies are guilty of thinking of advertising as an art form rather than a sharp instrument with which to brand clients' businesses. Also they stop caring about their own product as soon as the film is shot - with a bizarre and unhealthy interest in the number of views achieved on YouTube.

Television contractors took the money and ran. Once upon a time a wise sales director taught me that TV stations were paid for people to watch ads not programmes. After years of neglect, this is a distant memory. Nowadays the prime position - first in a break - that used to be reserved for the bastion of UK creativity is now hidden behind a poor quality, cheaply produced, unfunny, sponsorship ident and a host of programme trailers for the channel's own output.

Just about the only medium print journalists talk about the demise of in more florid terms than their own is television advertising. It remains a bĂȘte noire to anyone with a BTEC in media studies that anyone actually still watches TV. Yet if you go to the excellent Thinkbox website you will find that commercial viewing, revenues and ad effectiveness are all in rude health, it's just that no one seems to like this story, while even fewer want to write about it. My favourite press ad of the year was in the IPA Effectiveness Awards brochure where Thinkbox thanked the one non-TV advertiser in the whole awards for helping prove their point.

Clients love films portraying their brand, however recent times have seen them wandering toward the more measurable, more 'accountable' media. But let's remember that just because you can count something doesn't make it effective .

Regulators... don't get me started. Whatever happened to honest, decent and truthful as the benchmark? Beer does make you feel more sexy, lager consumption does make you more amusing. Car ads are right to talk about the emotional thrill of driving. One sector at a time, regulators are making it harder for adverts to sell in an entertaining way, all of which is why we have seen a catastrophic trend in the oft quoted TGI statement of people enjoying ads as much as the programmes. Down 57% in 15 years to an all time low.

We are all guilty, but we can all do something about it. However, whether this needs to be on traditional telly is another debate for another day.

I shall be speaking at a Thinkbox conference in October, on the power of television to create immediate and powerful responses. The speaker before me is from Google. He, I believe, is replacing Yellow Pages in the marketer's armoury. I will be using arguments that haven't changed since Colgate first hit our screens in the 1950's. Television advertising remains an amazingly powerful tool for brands - I defy anyone who saw the galaxy of fantastic ads in the half-time break of the England v Croatia game last week to claim the traditional TV spot is dead.

No comments:

Post a Comment