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Michaela Jefferson 

Starcom: TV is now twice the price... but not twice as good

Starcom: TV is now twice the price... but not twice as good

Despite its reputation for brand building, the inflating cost of TV advertising means agencies and their clients need to start looking at how they can build fame through new media, Starcom's executive head of strategy said this week.

"There's still nothing better than [a 30 second ad]," Dan Plant said on a panel at Future of TV Advertising Global.

"Unfortunately it costs twice as much now - and it hasn't got twice as good at what it was doing. You pay twice as much to achieve the same thing."

Questioned on whether he thought television was twice as good as other brand building media, Plant admitted he thought it was - however, "we're now paying beyond that rate of return because we have to just to stay still."

Zenith's latest adspend forecasts have predicted a 7% inflation in TV globally for 2020, after a 5.4% average annual inflation this decade.

Meanwhile, linear TV audiences are in long term decline. According to Ofcom's Media Nations report this year, average daily viewing for all individuals in the UK has declined by 50 minutes since 2010 - rising to 78 minutes among 16-34 year olds.

Earlier this week, Zenith's head of forecasting, Jonathan Barnard, commented that brands had been faced with a choice: "continue to rely on TV, spending more to get less, or invest in data and technology that allows them to aggregate digital audiences cost effectively."

The traditional out of home and print sectors pose a similar problem for advertisers, Plant said, with declining reach and rising costs.

"Out of home has half as many panels in the market as there used to be - you can't buy a national 48 sheet campaign anymore, which used to be the backbone of a fame-driving, simple message across the country," he said.

"And in print, buying a page in a newspaper would get you half the country in a day. You can't do that anymore.

"Those tools aren't as good as they used to be, that's the big problem."

For cost-effective fame building, Plant said advertisers may need to look at different models around TV, claiming that TV sponsorship "is probably the best fame-driving medium right now."

"The cost per impact is still comparable to what it was a few years ago and actually makes you famous for something by attaching you to something."

However, as TV sponsorship comes with long term commitments and contracts - which is "scary" for clients - developing a way to better link the brand work and later activation by retargeting consumers who have been exposed to the sponsorship will be essential.

Sam Day, CMO,

Nevertheless, as linear TV audiences decline, Plant said advertisers need to begin looking at new media - such as YouTube - and find ways to build brands there.

"[TV] is still going to be better than anything else for quite a long time, but it's never going to be as good as it was.

"'As seen on TV' used to mean something. 'As seen on YouTube' before I skipped the ad to the cat video doesn't say quite as much about the brand.

"We've got to find, before it's too late, ways in those new media of finding fame and building those signals... I don't know what that is right now. But we are trying."

Later, in an interview with Mediatel Events' director Justin Lebbon,'s CMO Sam Day disagreed with Plant's assessment of the cost-value exchange TV advertising offers.

"There is no better way for building cover than TV... Please tell me another media that can build cover that cost-effectively," he said.

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AnnaSampson, Insight and Strategy Director, Magnetic on 18 Dec 2019
“The issue of media cost versus the value delivered for advertisers is an important one. It is something Magnetic has spent 2019 exploring via our ‘Pay Attention’ work. Inspired by thought leaders such as Faris Yakob, we focused on ‘quality attention’ as a way to quantify value for advertisers. Because after all - if consumers aren’t paying attention to your ads, what exactly are you paying for? In his essay ‘The Qualia of Attention*’ Faris hones in on intensity as an important consideration, acknowledging that “some media experiences require higher levels of attention by their nature". He also takes into account the role of context and the qualitative nature of attention.

It’s easy to short-cut from arguments about reach to effectiveness. Reach is a readily available metric, but not all reach is equal and other qualitative factors are worthy of consideration. Neuro-insight evidence is useful in this context as it looks at the impact of advertising on the brain. Our ‘Pay Attention’ work found magazines delivered high quality attention at exceptional value for clients. Our latest work with Neuro-insight shows that this is because printed magazines score high on emotional involvement. So, whilst it’s true that printed magazine may not reach as many people as they did in the past, advertising placed in this context can make an important contribution.

Magazines offer brands sustained attention on their advertising, which is great for complex messages – as demonstrated by the award-winning work from Smart Energy. They also offer a relevant context that is particularly valuable when targeting passion-based audiences. Eye tracking work we have conducted in the automotive and home sectors shows that relevantly placed ads attract levels of attention on a par with the content, which is a pretty high bar in an advertising landscape where consumers are increasingly skipping or avoiding ads.

Understanding attention to advertising is a complex field rife with contradictions. Whilst there are more times and places we can capture the consumer‘s attention, numerous studies show attention to advertising is declining. Getting to grips with this important topic is one of the ways that we can answer advertisers’ questions about the value of advertising. It’s great to see more people contributing to this debate - Dentsu and the IAB conducted important studies this year - hopefully 2020 will see more of the same.


Anna Sampson- Insight and Strategy Director, Magnetic”