TV Advertising Is Dead. Long Live TV Advertising. Part II of II

By Mark Wills, the Founder of the Audacious Group, a Branding Consultancy. Mark has been working in advertising for 20+ years at companies including Saatchi & Saatchi, Coca-Cola and Ogilvy & Mather.

Some things are as true today as they were back then. Others aren’t.

I was very fortunate to have been schooled in advertising at one of the most venerable agencies of its time – dare I say, of all time – Saatchi & Saatchi. As a result I have always believed in the power of great television advertising. Successful communication, then and now, has to start with a message that is rooted in fundamental insights about the consumer and an understanding of how the brand is relevant to their lives. But one would be ignorant to forget that the world consumers live in has profoundly and forever changed since then. Gone are the days when success could be charted by the simplistic measures of just reach and frequency.

As is often the way with any change, the reactions tends to be extreme and this has been the case with many agencies as they try to adapt. Some have been likened to the proverbial frog in the pot of heating water. They haven’t recognized the change, they’ve stuck to their old knitting and only realized something was wrong when it was too late.

Where as others have run to the light, but have been so captivated by the array of new technologies afforded by the change that they forgot the fundamentals of what makes great and effective communications.

There seems to be a naïve, yet fashionable, assumption that every time a new technology comes along, as a matter of course, it has to be used to make a campaign successful. This approach has become dangerously de rigour.

Although I, like many others, may have started as a Luddite – filled with the fear of the advancing technology – I can now see the amazing advantages it offers us to bring our brand messages that much closer to our audiences and make them that much more meaningful.

And when used well – and not just for the sake of it – these new channels of two-way engagement and situational delivery can help to amplify the BIG idea and make it exponentially more powerful, relevant and meaningful to its audience. But always remember that the technology itself isn’t the BIG idea.

Let’s face it, TV advertising has rightly earned its rather unflattering reputation. The vast majority is – how can I put it – crap. But, there have always been good TV commercials – everybody has his or her list of favorites. Spots that have made them wince, laugh and even cry. Unfortunately, these are in the minority and the vast majority is the stuff that gives this august industry a bad name. Viewers that once were passive are now active and unforgiving. To be honest, this is nothing new. The TV remote control was the beginning, but with the advent of the DVR and On Demand programming viewers have no reason to watch commercials. Advertising was once the stuff that interrupted content, now for it to succeed it needs to become the content.

That said, even with all the myriad ways we can now communicate with consumers, there are still very few mediums that have the ability to deliver such a powerful, pointed and emotive message, as broadcast TV can. They may be viewing other screens at the same time – continuous partial attention – but as NBC’s record Olympic 2012 numbers have shown, they’re still tuning in.

Keep it real.

So, when BIG ideas exist, brands have BIG stories to tell. Problems can arise when, through consumer engagement in social media, these stories become so diluted and off message that they’re no longer serving the original BIG idea. Sometimes a story, or a piece of music, needs to be delivered the way the Maestro intended. How do you think Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ would sound today if the Emperor Joseph II had been able to act and redistribute the composition based on his belief that it had ‘too many notes’?

Advertising affords advertisers, through payment, the ability to have their stories told just the way they want them – not withstanding moral and legal parameters. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with engaging consumers through social media and make them part of the conversation. But buyer beware – sometimes, when people get involved their actions may not be in line with your desired outcomes.

I’m certainly not suggesting things have come full circle. The way consumers engage with brands has undoubtedly changed forever. But the one thing that has not changed – and will never change – is the need for brand owners to be able to deliver their BIG ideas in a pure way that will hopefully make audiences sit up, take notice and take action.

So, in spite of the fragmentation of audiences across new media, TV ad spending remains the bulk of many companies’ marketing budgets.

U.S. advertisers are expected to allocate 42.2% of their total spending – $64 billion – to TV ads this year, an increase on the 39% share five years ago, according to WPP’s GroupM.

In conclusion, it is our audacious opinion that the reports of TV advertising’s death are greatly exaggerated.

  • chingli

    The way consumers engage with brands has undoubtedly changed forever. But the one thing that has not changed – geo news and will never change – is the need for brand owners to be able to deliver their BIG ideas in a pure way that will hopefully make audiences sit up,