No, Television Isn’t Dead. In fact, It Hardly Has a Headcold.

One might reasonably trace our industry’s current low regard for TV back to Top Gun. Tony Scott’s chocolate filtered, MTV visuals ushered in a new standard for visual storytelling on film…and in turn, sent our industry down a road of escalating production costs.  The CG, the morphing, the big dollar talent before and behind the camera; through the 80’s and the 90’s, ad professionals learned to approach commercial filmmaking with a high end fetishistic mania, whether selling cars or Levi’s or spreadable cheese.

So as the new Millenium dawned and the digital revolution took ever deeper hold and changed the fundamentals of how and where we consume media, clients leapt to this new platform and it’s alluring promise of low cost development and free placement.  From a procurement perspective, this is all good for clients.  And today, the promise of social networks and their attendant database and word-of-mouth and viral message amplification promise even greater returns.  For free!  It  is all sooo much better than TV.

"...The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration."
"...The Report of My Death Was an Exaggeration."

Except for the small detail that it isn’t entirely true. Recently, a group called the Advertising Research Foundation reviewed 388 case histories from seven different advertising research firms and concluded that TV is not only as effective as it’s always been, it may even be increasing in effectiveness at sales building.

To many in our business, that news will be as welcome as a floor length mink at a PETA convention, but the ARF people conjecture that in a market cluttered with choice, television ads help simplify the buying decision.  “They want to zone out and watch TV and relax and let the communications wash over them. It’s an extension of the brand experience,” said Joel Rubinson, ARF’s chief research officer.  That’s not exactly web 2.0 behavior…

In this case, perception is not reality.  Of course, in an image business, perception often means more than reality, and many clients perceive TV as costly and irrelevant. And there’s the rub…

Clients are entirely correct that digital media provide highly personal, cost-effective opportunities to connect with their consumers.  Savvy marketers should use this intimacy to create deeper levels of brand engagement, particularly with innovative engagements on social networks.  Still, the undeniable fact remains that TV continues to hold serve as the number one way to raise awareness.  Period.

And so, high costs and all, high risks and all, lack of guarantees and all, television should remain part of the marketing mix for many major brands.  The dream of a digital world resplendent with business-driving free media simply does not exist for every brand.  A few, savvy, first-adopters?  Maybe, but the rest of us will need to keep applying inspiring new thinking to both our messages and our marketing mixes.  And we’ll need to keep integrating television into our plans: convergence across mediums remains an inevitability.

Studies like this provide valuable reminders against confusing popular opinion and reality.  And how ‘popular opinion’ often proves synonymous with ‘wishful thinking.’  (see also: California Banking Crisis).

In these expanding times, TV now crosses the three screens of TV’s, PC’s and cell phones.  So the real truth is not that television is dead, but rather that is has really, really diversified.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

2 thoughts on “No, Television Isn’t Dead. In fact, It Hardly Has a Headcold.

  1. igmorrison says:

    TV has more than a headcold, it has flu.

    Traditional above the line agencies have been slow to grapple with the reality (and potential) of the digital landscape.

    Many clients have been slow to react, slow to invest, and slow in hiring those that can help them grapple with the realities of this new landscape. And then there’s the TV networks themselves…

    The moving visual image has power, nobody can deny that.

    But we as marketers need to adapt. TV / PC / mobile convergence does not mean a one size fits all spot will work, it needs careful planning and manipulation in order to ensure the right message is being delivered across the right channel, at the right time.

    Good planners and creatives should be coming into their own right now, there’s never been a more exciting time to work in the advertising industry!

  2. Mike D says:

    @igmorrison I think what you may have meant to say was, “TV agencies [have] more than a headcold, [they have] flu.” Which couldn’t be a more correct assessment. The article, however, was about how television, the medium, ain’t goin no-weah.

    The fact of the matter is, people watch TV. Now, how they watch TV is evolving and will continue to do so. But the point is that people still like to sit in front of their boob-tubes and watch their “shows.” And it’s hard to beat the power of telling people a great story while they’re immersed in TV-land (the mythical place, not the network).

    Does this mean advertisers should just stick to television because it’s still “working?” On the contrary. The fact that it’s still working gives us a tremendous opportunity to expand what used to be a 30-second story into a massive, deep, engaging experience.

    Lastly… ARF? Really? There wasn’t anyone in the room on Name Our Company Day who went, “Hey guys… just thinking out loud here, but, uh… if we name ourselves the Advertising Research Foundation, our acronym would be ARF. Y’know… like a dog. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for dogs… have one myself. But, eh, we all cool with that? Maybe we just move the F to the beginning. Then we’re FAR. Like far-reaching or something. Sounds more research-ey, no? Nothing? Nobody? Ok, ARF it is.”

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