Mark Ritson Slams Adidas’ Decision To Abandon TV Advertising

Mark Ritson, Marketing professor and award winning columnist, speaking at National Radio Conference 2016

Provocative marketing guru Mark Ritson has got his knickers in a knot once again following a declaration from Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted that the sportswear giant would no longer consider TV advertising and shift its budget to digital.

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In a recent interview with CNBC, Rorsted revealed that Adidas is moving away from TV commercials and focusing its marketing efforts on digital and social channels in order to target younger potential customers.

“It’s clear that the younger consumer engages with us predominately over the mobile device,” he told CNBC.

“Digital engagement is key for us – you don’t see any TV advertising anymore. All of our engagement with the consumer is through digital media, and we believe in the next three years we can take our online business from approximately €1 billion to €4 billion and create a much more direct engagement with consumers.”

But, according to Ritson, the Adidas boss could not be more wrong.

“First, all that hoo haa about TV being dead and young people just ‘engaging’ with their phones is hyperbolic horseshit,” he wrote in a blog on Linkedin.

“Yes, young people watch less TV than old people. Yes, they watch less TV than their generational forebears from the 1980s and 90s. And, yes, they are gradually watching less TV each year as time goes on. All true. But TV was such a dominant form of media for young people that its decline has many, many years to go before mobile advertising supersedes it.

“Indeed, the latest data from Nielsen in America suggests that the decline is starting to flatten even among younger demographic groups.”

Ritson said the other complicating factor that Rorsted is missing with his digital-only approach is how difficult it is to get a commercial message through to even the most mobile-obsessed consumer.

“As Thinkbox recently demonstrated with its own analysis, even a group as glued to their mobiles as the all-important 16-to-24 demographic still consume around 90 per cent of their video advertising via TV,” he wrote.

“That big flat screen on the wall might not be watched as much by the kids as it used to be, but compared to the tiny, active, ephemeral device in their pocket, it’s still the dominant source of advertising for young people.

“Facebook’s own data confirms that TV retains a superior reach for even the youngest demographic groups.”

Even if TV was on its last legs with younger consumers, Ritson argued that Rorsted’s digital focus is still troubling.

“One of the great principles of good marketing strategy is the concept of ‘media neutrality’. It’s an embarrassingly simple concept, but one with some of the biggest implications for how marketing should be done,” he explained.

“Very simply, a company like Adidas should start each year with an open mind and no general preference for any medium over any other.

“The minute a company starts ring-fencing a medium-specific budget or announcing that it is ‘digital first’, it inherently makes a mockery of its own strategic foundations and will almost certainly invest its marketing budget in a sub-optimal way.”