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TV: changing times mean time for change

10 Jul 2018  |  Nick Manning 
TV: changing times mean time for change

TV advertising is still a powerful way to sell product, writes Nick Manning - but change is coming and advertisers and their agencies must move to update decades-old working practices

Anyone looking for some peace and quiet on a hot July evening should book this Wednesday evening at 7pm in their diary, and go anywhere without access to TV.

The audience for England’s televised World Cup semi-final against Croatia will no doubt exceed the estimated 24 million viewers who watched the Colombia match on ITV and the 20 million or so for Sweden on the BBC (not bad for an afternoon match).

Note the ‘estimated’ bit. Given out-of-home viewing, ITV Hub and unmeasured mobile device access, no-one knows how many people actually saw the Colombia match and the advertising and sponsorship within it. We’re in the multi-platform age, and our measurement systems can’t keep up, so nor can revenue.

Whatever the true numbers, the success of the TV coverage reminds us that live sport on TV is still the most powerful communications platform known to mankind, with wall-to-wall editorial before, during and after dominating the content of all other media, especially the ‘red-tops’.

And it sells beer and even waistcoats in huge quantities in the longest heatwave since 1976.

It demonstrates that TV is still the most popular form of in-home and out-of-home entertainment, the biggest driver of social media commentary and people’s personal interaction. And it’s still the most powerful advertising vehicle, with advertising in all other media relying on the TV coverage for effect.

So far, no new news. The dogs will bark, the circus moves on and we’re over to Trent Bridge for the cricket. Brexit is back on the front pages but no-one’s watching it in the pub.

Our industry should not allow TV’s recent success to go unheeded, but rather treat it as a wake-up call at a point where TV is about to go through the biggest changes in its history. These will have a profound effect on brands and advertising, but so far our industry seems content to observe rather than prepare.

As streaming becomes embedded as a TV distribution mechanism, the big Silicon Valley players will join in the global game with billions of dollars in content and the established players will continue to jostle for assets in both distribution and content. TV has traditionally been a localised medium, but this is about to change forever.

The new hybrid business models that combine TV’s subscription and ad-funded services will change the way that advertisers can and should reach their audiences. Imagine England versus Croatia on a subscription-only platform and how this would change the dynamics of public reaction.

TV can deliver mass reach and while this will no doubt play an important role in the future, addressability and personalisation will increasingly make TV a fluid medium that can flex according to need, led by data and programmatic delivery as well as research. Interactivity will bring new ways to measure effectiveness.

It’s not too early for advertisers to ask their appointed advisors how they will evolve their TV planning services to suit business needs, whether that be mass reach or the pursuit of fragmented audiences, some of whom are already big fans of ad-free services such as Netflix. It’s already a challenge for young and lighter viewers.

It’s also a big challenge to the planners, buyers, sellers and researchers of the TV airtime industry. While the media world has changed beyond belief in so many ways, the methodologies behind TV advertising remain stubbornly unmoved.

Despite massive movements in audience between linear TV and online TV, and equally significant shifts within linear itself, much of our industry still operates as it has done for decades.

The most progressive media agencies will respond to change and will see the forthcoming TV ‘Big Bang’ as an opportunity to challenge traditional ways of working"

Share of budget still reigns supreme as the basis for trading, arguably limiting initiatives such as Sky’s AdSmart, and CRR increasingly looks like the child of 2003 that it is. Money does not flow with audience when restricted by old-fashioned regulation and artificial constraints on the ability to follow audience flows and original sales ideas.

The domestic TV players will no doubt build on their ‘esprit de corps’ and innovate in how audiences are measured on a cross-platform basis, emulating their publisher peers, given how much of their audience is now unmeasured and therefore unmonetised.

Meanwhile, old metrics such as dayparts and positions in break as a proxy for ‘quality’ are still a major feature of TV negotiation and reporting. Maybe this was acceptable in the 80s, but surely not now, with audiences distributed differently.

Newer brands, especially in the direct-to-consumer markets, do not conform to these legacy ways of working. They approach TV with a performance mentality that goes way beyond the old DRTV model.

The most progressive media agencies will respond to change and will see the forthcoming TV ‘Big Bang’ as an opportunity to challenge traditional ways of working and originate new techniques to work with the grain of change, rather than against it.

TV advertising is still a powerful way to build brands and sell product, short- and long-term, but the new business models may make this harder to achieve.

As streaming turns the TV industry into a globalised business, with new commercial models that will disrupt audience availability, advertisers and their agencies should move quickly to update decades-old working practices to reflect today’s reality and prepare for tomorrow’s.

The world may feel like a very different place by the time England play in Qatar in 2022.

Nick Manning is SVP, MediaLink

Interested in the TV advertising landscape and want to hear more? Attend the Future TV Advertising Forum in London on December 4th, 5th and 6th to with keynotes from Europe, US and Asia and over 750 attendees.

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LindseyClay, CEO, Thinkbox on 10 Jul 2018
“Hi Nick,
Great piece. Insightful and challenging as always. I think I can reply on behalf of the commercial TV industry, in the UK at least: changes and challenges accepted.
The big themes you cover – measurement to capture the true reach of TV, changes in viewing behaviour, addressability and personalisation alongside mass reach, trading models, regulation – are also opportunities, and ones that the UK broadcasters are embracing. And they are doing so buoyed by a new spirit of collaboration and partnership.
While it is reassuring that TV advertising is as powerful as ever, with all studies continuing to show TV’s effectiveness outperforming all others, nothing is being taken for granted.
In the past, TV has thrived on every technological disruption – both for viewers and advertisers. We’re determined this will continue and that commercial TV will evolve and adapt to ensure it is fit for the future of viewing and advertising.


22 May 2020 

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