Is TV Coming Back (Or Did It Ever Go Away)?

Is TV Coming Back (Or Did It Ever Go Away)?
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He’s back! B&T’s favourite contrarian columnist, Robert Strohfeldt, has penned his latest musings. This time arguing free-to-air TV still offers advertisers a great deal more than its competitors, if you’re prepared to look at the small details…

The Media section of The Australian each Monday has a column by Professor Mark Ritson. He has built quite a profile in the past couple of years, though many seem to think it is because of a perceived bias against “digital”. (Virtually all media is digital today, so I use the term to describe anything online.).

I imagine like most I am inundated with blogs, magazines, opinion pieces etc.in an effort to stay abreast of what is occurring in our fast- moving world. The number of pieces being pumped out has grown at a phenomenal rate to the point where there is no way you can look at them all and have time for any work. But the majority are not objective parcels of wisdom, rather cleverly crafted (some) sales pitches. The Content and Native Advertising craze has reached a point where it is difficult to find an objective analysis on anything to do with our industry. Most have some sort of biased spin and to hell with facts and objectivity.

Even if you don’t agree with Ritson, his articles are not contaminated by any sort of vested interest. Just on this basis alone, his column should be compulsory reading for everyone in advertising/media and marketing. And he backs his arguments with hard facts, not the rubbery gibberish that has passed for fact in the post- modern world of marketing and advertising.

Over the past five years in particular, there has been a large section of the industry who have been death riding traditional media. This is coming from the media side of the business as advertising has been effectively been split in two – creative and media. The ramifications of this split are still being felt and it has weakened the advertising business enormously. I have said many times Advertising = Media + Creative. And the total is far greater than the sum of its parts.

At the turn of the century, digital was new and exciting and seen as the future. Virtually all new entrants to the industry wanted to work in digital – traditional media was the past and I can understand why someone just starting out would want to focus on the future, not the past.

In 2008, I watched an online presentation on social media – the storyline was any company that did not have a strong social media presence in five years’ time would be out of business. (That the presentation was put together by people whose income came solely from Social Media eluded most.)

Social media grew (both in numbers and platforms) as did the number of hours people spent online.

It reached a point where hype overtook fact. But it went deeper than that. An almost hostility developed against traditional media. It was analogous to a gold rush. As businesses such as Uber, Airbnb, Tesla and the general concept pf digital disruption took off, objectivity and common sense went out the window.

Digital become almost a cult. To say anything negative was taken by many as a personal insult. The first time I heard of Ritson was by watching a filmed presentation he gave in Montreal in late 2016. (He later delivered a similar series of presentations here, using Australian rather than Canadian companies).

As an example of how hype had over-ridden fact, he provided an analysis of the famous Oriel Tweet during a power black- out during the Super Bowl in 2013. “The Tweet Heard Around the World” and “How Oriel Won the Marketing Super Bowl with a Timely Black Out Ad on Twitter”. Using basic high school maths he estimated 65,000 saw the full Oriel Tweet compared to 50 million who saw the Budweiser TVC during the broadcast. As he eloquently said, “On what fucking planet does 65 thousand beat 55 million?”. More people around the world in advertising saw the tweet than the intended audience on the day.

I am not a cheer squad for Ritson but he was the first person of any standing to stop and ask some basic questions about the digital madness that had been allowed/encouraged to run wild.

After appearing in B&T, I have published some articles in LinkedIn (the place I called “Facebook with a Necktie”) and received messages from people saying they agree, but cannot say so publicly and remain employed. (On a variety of topics, not just media). That anyone feels their livelihood is threatened by simply offering up publicly an opinion that goes against the “accepted” norm, is not just appalling, it is frightening.

Rather than encourage open discussion and debate, there seems to be a sinister Stalinist undercurrent of censorship occurring in an industry where advice from free and creative thinking is at the center of our service offering.

Of course, digital has opened so many great opportunities that TV (or any other traditional media) cannot offer.

But the zealots see online advertising as a viable alternative to TV (and other traditional media). “No one watches TV ads anymore” is their refrain. Has anyone told these people that the TV remote was invented in 1950 and were common place as far back as the 1970s – viewers had a similar opportunity to mute the sound, switch the station, go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat or a drink? (Going to the bathroom is not a physiological function that only evolved in the 21st century).

And no one yet has been able to come up with a metric that adequately measures how many people have seen an ad online and how much of the ad did they even see. At least a TV advertiser knows their ad will cover 100 per cent of the screen. A view has to be one of the most useless and deceptive metrics ever devised.

Think TV commissioned Professor Karen Nelson-Field to conduct a quantitative research study into the effectiveness of TV. Think TV is obviously biased so selecting someone such as Professor Nelson-Fields to conduct the study ensured the results would be honest and unbiased. Her work can be peer reviewed and to twist or spin would be a death sentence to her academic and professional career. (Unlike Google and Facebook who produce their own figures – “trust me, there are only billions of dollars at stake in this game. Would I not be totally honest?”).

Ritson quoted two key findings in his column on Monday:

  • Whilst TV ads give 100 per cent screen coverage, average screen coverage (that is not the average who give 100 per cent screen coverage, rather average a percentage of the screen covered by an ad) for YouTube it’s 32 per cent and 14 per cent for Facebook, (So on a mobile screen, a Facebook ad on average only covers around 14 per cent of what is already a tiny screen)
  • TV was 26 per cent more effective in driving sales than YouTube and 21 per cent more effective than Facebook

This is not an isolated piece of research. Both in Australia and overseas, there is reawaking of what TV can achieve. In the US, CivicScience an online polling company that surveys consumers on their favourite websites and social networks, found that very few US internet users have made a purchase based on ads they saw on social platforms, like Facebook or Snapchat.

The threat the industry now faces from advisory and management consulting firms continues, with Deloitte entering the debate on media with their own research, the results of which were covered by the major industry publications – TV viewing increasing and having a high trust factor, social media stating to “grate” and online content doesn’t pay (Think the buyers of King Content have worked that out).

Putting it simply, there are outcomes which TV and other traditional media are superior in attaining and others where digital/online has no peer. Much of the debate from Ritson and co has not been about the total supremacy of one over another, rather a more balanced view that integration of both is required – it is not either or.

Which is why the terms digital marketer and digital advertiser are no longer relevant. I am far from the first to suggest marketer/advertiser in a digital world is more appropriate.

Tring to predict the future is a fun, but highly inaccurate sport. The nutter with the crazy haircut could have a huge influence on what happens in just the next few months. (He killed his half- brother and uncle, so his hair-dresser should be very worried). The reality is whilst never losing sight of the future, you act in the present.

TV has never really gone away, so the talk of a come -back is wide of the mark.

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