The slumbering giant of television has awoken and promised to smite its enemies in spectacular fashion at this morning’s reThinkTV Marketing Forum.
In front of a packed house of more than 500 people at Sydney’s Doltone House, TV’s biggest bosses in Australia Paul Anderson, Ten, Hugh Marks, Nine, Peter Tonagh, Foxtel, and Tim Worner, Seven, took to the stage together to show a united front against their common enemy of Internet platforms (mainly Facebook and Google).
In a sometime’s hilarious format, the four men were interviewed by ThinkTV’s Dominic White as they put their differences aside for the sake of their shared purpose. Tim Worner’s unease, in particular, was viscerally evident as the men he spends nine-to-five beating up on made statements on all of their behalf.
“MCN is the best at addressability,” from Peter Tonagh’s lips seemed to cause Worner actual pain.
To that point, Nine’s Hugh Marks commenced proceedings by saying “we won’t stop the odd skirmish”, no doubt referring to this week’s legal stoush between his and Worner’s respective networks.
The four men came together behind the official unveiling of the first stage of Ebiquity’s research into the ROI of advertising on FMCG sales. Research, which Ebiquity’s CEO Richard Basil-Jones spent at least 10 minutes labouring over to stress its independence and veracity.
Commissioned by ThinkTV, the research is aimed at battling what ThinkTV’s UK counterpart ThinkBox calls “numberwang”, the numbers “Internet evangelists” pull out of thin air, according to ThinkBox’s Tess Alps.
The numbers of course show TV is way out in front in terms of ROI on incremental spend, although admitting it only made a three per cent difference compared to in-store promotions in the grocery, booze and pharmaceutical sector.
Against this research, and citing Google’s call to marketers to slice 25 per cent off TV budgets to divert through its channels, Tim Worner said, “This is our response and we’re going to attack”.
Paul Anderson and Peter Tonagh both made concessions that TV’s long-term dominance had led to complacency and the dropping of the ball. Meanwhile Worner went so far as to say, “We’ve not been at our best as an industry for the past few years in terms of the shows we’re producing, we’re a bit off.”
Then Hugh Marks had his turn at attacking Facebook saying, “If you are an advertiser you want transparency and accurate transparency. Our measurement is laser like… it’s not a moment in time, it’s averages; all marketers should demand that level of scrutiny from all providers.”
Peter Tonagh chimed in saying he found it “inconceivable that you can be out by 50 per cent… if we did that we’d be string up from a lamp post.”
Tim Worner then issued something of a warning to CMOs suggesting the average tenure of a CMO was even shorter than a CEO’s and he “felt sorry for them because they’re being bombarded with all these numbers. They need to worry about what gets the tills ringing. We’re happy to be measured by what gets the tills ringing.”
In case anyone had missed his point that relying on what appear to be increasingly unbelievable numbers emanating from the Internet evangelists, Worner underlined his point with this: “CMO’s heads are the first on the block when times get tough.”
Feeling they may have served a mortal blow to the West Coast American Internet Evangelists, which Hugh Marks admitted to once being one of, Peter Tonagh turned his attention to NetFlix saying it “was an overstated threat.”
He cited the statistic that six per cent of its subscribers watched 80 per cent of the content. “It’s more of a threat to the DVD market and not to live TV”.
And in good news for the local production industry, the four all agreed that US content deals “were a millstone around our necks in recent years” and that “American TV was worth less [note the space]” because now local content provided so many more opportunities for brands to get involved with and there was also licensing opportunities for distribution overseas as well as extensions into other mediums.
Finally, the elephant in the room as soon as all four men took to the stage was that they were all men. White middle-aged men. The Twittersphere lit up and Dominic White had to ask the question.
Amid the squirming, Peter Tonagh said he had made a commitment to never appear on a panel without diversity but in this case it was a TV CEO’s forum so what could he do? Hugh Marks said his management team was absolutely 50/50 men and women and he hoped to see more ethnic diversity soon.
None of the men volunteered to throw themselves on their swords to make way for a woman. One of them did point to ThinkTV’s CEO Kim Portrate as something of a concession.
At least it was an issue and at least it got discussed. More work to be done.