Global Marketing
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Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Global Marketing
Management Consultants

ThinkTV and the Future of TV Advertising – Are we in the future, or the past?

Future of TV advertising

This post is by TrinityP3 Business Director, David Angell. David has extensive commercial and media experience gained most recently as the Regional Chief Operating Officer at Havas Group and through an almost twenty-year career in media agencies, which he uses to help drive optimal results for TrinityP3 clients.

I was reminded last week of a ground-breaking PR strategy. Masterminded by the US PR firm Hill & Knowlton in the 1950s, it led to the creation of TIRC – the Tobacco Industry Research Committee.

Funded by the tobacco industry and run largely by a mix of the tobacco industry and PR executives, the TIRC existed to provide ‘independent’ research that refuted some of the more concerning rumours about the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

Part of an early press release announcing the appointment of its first full-time chairman (a retired CEO of the tobacco firm Brown & Williamson) read as follows:

It is an obligation of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee at this time to remind the public of these essential points:

  1. There is no conclusive scientific proof of a link between smoking and cancer.
  2. Medical research points to many possible causes of cancer… .
  3. The millions of people who derive pleasure and satisfaction from smoking can be reassured that every scientific means will be used to get all the facts as soon as possible.*

Over many years, physicians, scientists and academics were paid to produce ‘independent’ research that supported these findings.

Is TV more effective than any other channel in delivery of long term sales?

I was reminded of all this when I read about the latest research from ThinkTV, released last week and showing – quelle surprise! – that TV was more effective than any other channel in delivery of long term sales, and only a very marginal second to Search in delivery of short term sales.

‘The research has been undertaken by Monash University Department of Marketing head, Professor Peter Danaher’ the press release solemnly informed us, ‘with GroupM and WPP-owned marketing effectiveness consultancy, Gain Theory’.

The release went on to state that ‘The starting point for the research was to reinforce TV is good at delivering demand in the longer term’ said the release. ‘The research then looked at the short term ROI’.

Now let me state right now that I am in no way doubting the veracity of the actual research. In fact, I am very much a fan of TV as an effective communication medium, as far as that goes. Nor am I casting any aspersions on the integrity of anyone involved.

It’s just all so…clumsy.

I’m not enough of a TV bigwig to have been invited to the Future of TV Advertising event in Sydney, where the study was unveiled.

But I’d put money that at least one, probably a lot more, of the people in that room were outwardly smiling, whilst inwardly thinking – really? Is the combination of a body that exists to promote the interests of TV, partnered with a research agency owned by the biggest buyer of TV in the country, really the best way to convince people of the findings, with no suspicion or cynicism?

And who exactly does the research seek to convince, anyway? And of what? Spend more on TV than on other channels because it’s better? Spend proportionately more on TV to achieve short term sales, thereby increasing the dollar share of voice? Are we looking to the future here or the past?

I get that the study was deep and broad, and therefore robust. I understand that market mix modelling was used. But as a purpose and a set of findings, it’s just so…binary, so stale. So ‘us versus them’.

Short term versus long terms sales? “There is this perception that television is only really good for the long term’ said Professor Danaher. ‘I want to dispel that myth and do it compellingly… and show TV can work well in the short term, as well.’

Anyone who has ever employed a DRTV strategy, around as a concept for at least 20-30 years, would surely dispute both the statement and the necessity of dispelling the ‘myth’. As would anyone who has ever used a media mix model to consider weight and flighting of TV and its effect on adstock decay and baseline sales. As would anyone who advertises on TV sub-regionally, or without the money for big brand pieces. Again, these things have all been around for decades.

It’s 2021.

There are so many other more interesting avenues for a piece of research about television to explore. Perhaps covering topics which aren’t always about ‘TV is better than the rest’ – rather, about the evolving role of television in today’s society and how advertisers can best work with it.

Suggestions? I don’t know, I haven’t had the time to give it enough thought. But off the top of my head – how about a study focused on the cultural appeal and importance of Australian network programming on the TV consumer and how well this is holding out in the Netflix generation?

Or a study about the best ways to achieve messaging cut-through on TV to combat ad-skipping?

Or an exploration of TV’s complex and changing relationships with different consumer groups? Or a study that looks at TV advertising in the context of BLM, #metoo, gender politics?

If I sound frustrated, it’s because I am. So much work must have gone into this piece of research by people way smarter than me, but at the end of the day, what influence is it likely to have?

It’s great that we have industry bodies like ThinkTV. But if the balance of output moved a bit from defensively waging an old-fashioned share of dollar war in favour of a more holistic approach, its influence and the interest level would greatly increase.

*Source: Inventing Conflicts of Interest: A History of Tobacco Industry Tactics, 2012, Allan M Brandt

This article appeared in AdNews on March 5, 2021

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    David has been a media agency practitioner for fifteen years, holding several senior positions in the UK and Australia. During this time, he has worked with a number of blue-chip organisations. David is the General Manager and Head of Media at TrinityP3. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and children.

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