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.
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.