In this guest column, B&T’s most consistent columnist, Robert Strohfeldt of Strohfeldt Consulting, says yesterday’s Super Bowl is brilliant for reinforcing a few given facts about the art of Advertising…
At $US5 million for a 30 second ad and 50 million-plus viewers in the US alone, there is almost as much interest in what TV ads are going to run as there is in the game itself. Over the years, Super Bowl has been the event at which brands showcase their latest “big idea” (and often big budget) TVCs.
And the viewers lap it up. (They don’t turn off the ads, or mute the sound). After the game, the critique of the TV ads is nearly as a big a topic as what transpired during the game. (If you have ever watched a full game, you will understand). Whilst never a ratings blockbuster, programmes such as World’s Funniest/Best TV Commercials are always a safe bet to generate satisfactory audiences, for very little financial outlay.
People like and appreciate great advertising. TV ads can make people laugh, cry and sing along. But the down side is viewers strongly dislike “poor” advertising and it is this “poor” advertising that gives all advertising a bad name because it out numbers the great ads by at least 10 to one.
In the early 2000s, there was a mad rush into “digital” within the industry. This is understandable. The world had come through the tech wreck of the late 90s, due to many investors going a tad overboard in their enthusiasm. In 1998 the IPO of an online insurance broker, with gross revenue of $1 million, gave it a market capitalisation of $1 billion. (1000 times earnings). Even before Web 2.0 it was obvious that the internet was going to revolutionise the business world. Like gold rushes of old, business knew that “there is gold in them there hills”. But finding it was not so easy.
For those joining the industry at the time, digital was obviously the future and traditional media was “last century”. The 30 second TV ad became a relic of the past. There was (and still is today), a belief that learning about and focusing on traditional media was a fast way to become obsolete. In a classic case of “throwing the baby out with the bath water”, many of the basic tenants of communications were taken to be obsolete as well. Ironically, proponents of social media, online advertising, content and the plethora of “new” communications techniques, started to discover that the basics of advertising and communications don’t change, irrespective of the medium or technique adopted.
The hot topic of the mid to late nineties was convergence, which logically implies integration. But the fixation with all things digital (that traditional media is digital was overlooked), resulted in an either/or approach to traditional versus new media.
During the evolution of advertising from the late 90s up until now, there has been an industry wide swing away from traditional advertising. Where once having a 30 second national TVC was deemed the peak of creative achievement (and winning awards), the kudos was in creating digital alternatives to TV.
And the Google/Facebook duopoly was using its considerable muscle and influence to drive the new age digital thinking. Whilst traditional media did virtually nothing to address the bias and misinformation these two were generating.
Ironically, traditional media was helping with their own demise. Stories about the death of TV were being run, using very much the same logic and story lines being fed to them by Google/Facebook. The following article from a major Melbourne daily newspaper is a perfect example of the muddled thinking that now dominates media planning and buying
- Nearly 1 in 5 (17.8 per cent) of 14 to 24- year old’s don’t watch any Free to Air TV. That could be written as “Over 80 per cent of 14 to 24- year old’s still watch Free to Air TV”. Conclusion. Free to Air still most single powerful advertising medium.
- In 7 years’ time that figure will increase to one third. “Excuse me client, but in 7 years only 66.66% of 14 to 24- year old’s will watch Free to Air TV. So, you should drop it from your schedule now.”
- It is now nearly 1 in 7 Australians watch no Free to Air TV during the week. (Not weekends). Again, could say that 85.7 per cent of Australians watch Free to Air TV during the week.
Traditional media has been fighting a losing battle since the turn of the century.
The impact on FTA TV can be seen in the level of crap programming being put rolled out. Realty TV and sport are dominating. Sport is not cheap, but it does attract viewers in numbers digital media platforms can only dream about. (Last Sunday’s men’s final of The Australian Open peaked at over 4 million viewers. Yes, there are claims of many millions more “views” through streaming. But the bottom line is in excess of 80 per cent of the viewing was done on TV). Reality TV proves once again that if you feed people crap, with nothing decent to compare against, then crap becomes the staple diet.
Finally, 2016 saw the digital giants claimed performances being questioned.
Never before has any media measured their own performance and then have this data accepted by media planners and buyers without question.
No wonder the issue of conflict of interest arose. Traditional media was on a hiding to nothing:
- Marketing managers wanted digital. As Professor Mark Ritson hypothesised if a new social media platform called “Thwaco” was launched, within weeks it would be on the schedules of most major advertisers. The Magpie Generation he used was an apt description. Anything new and shiny and they had to have it.
- Trade (and even traditional media) was allocating many more times the editorial coverage of social and online than its market share. The stories on social and online were unfailingly positive, whilst those on traditional media were almost always negative.
- Dodgy metrics coming from Google and Facebook. A number of independent studies by The Online Research Unit and Sensis have found 66 per cent and 75 per cent respectively of the population do not follow any brands on social media. Late last year Facebook was said to have been over estimating their video audiences by up to 75 per cent.
Hopefully 2017 will see some sense coming back into the media market. P&Gs top marketer has admitted his company had treated digital marketing and media as if it were different to traditional. “Delusional” was the word he used to describe their mindset.
We went from mass communications to mass confusion. Those who were working in the business prior to the digital phenonium and when the old accreditation system was in place will recall what a low margin business media planning and buying was. The revenue was confined to 10% commission, which they had to share with the creative agency and pay for credit insurance. (For this 10%, the media buyer took on responsibility for the debt). Digital was like manna from heaven for them. (Clients must take some responsibility for the mess that has eventuated. It is not a crime for a supplier to make a decent profit.)
Irrespective of the platform, “good” advertising still cuts through and does its intended job i.e. sell. But, with the lack of emphasis on the effectiveness of advertising, the art of creating and producing these ads is being lost.
There is way too much focus on the technical and not nearly enough on the art. Advertising was once defined as “Where Art Meets Science.”
Such much of it is now junk science and like anything that is not practised, the art is disappearing.
Hopefully 2017 will also see a return to a strong emphasis on producing effective advertising. By effective, I mean ads that achieve more than just entertainment – engagement is not a measure of effectiveness.