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‘The Future of TV Advertising’ 2020

The year 2020 has given us more than a few problems so far. One of the main causes for concern has been the upheaval to our working calendars. Thankfully, in the digital world, many events have been successfully transitioned over to online platforms. On the 30th of April, we booted up our laptops and tuned into ‘The Future of TV Advertising UK’ event, in what was billed by Mediatel as a digital content extravaganza. That’s shorthand for people sitting in loungewear watching videos about TV advertising all day. 

The roster of talks and discussions took in subjects as vast as ‘The future of TV entertainment’ and as focussed as ‘Bringing music videos back into the living room’. Of course, the recent world pandemic that has moulded this streamed event was a hot topic of conversation. Like everyone else in the media game, we’re keeping a close eye on how the COVID-19 crisis will pan out for our industry.

As a production company whose output is predominantly TV commercials, we want to keep up to date with the latest developments around our industry. “Attending” events like these help keep our pitches current and ensure that the creatives we present are always fresh, and in line with the latest ideas.

With nearly 6 hours of presentations to think on, there was a lot of information to take in (We capped out at 15 pages of notes!). To help make sense of it all, we’ve put together our top 5 takeaways from the event, these are thoughts from the discussion that struck a chord with us. 

Key takeaway #1

TV has changed more in the last 5 years than it has in the last 50

It’s quite a sobering fact. Not surprising but sobering all the same. The medium of TV had remained relatively unchanged since it was first introduced back in the 1940s except for the ever growing audiences. As part of the growth came massive investment from advertisers, with revenues busting through the $7.5 billion mark during the 1970s and even more beyond. The power of TV advertising was immense for any brand to reach a wide audience.

Through the 80s and 90s, the influence of TV exploded. In the US, the coveted Superbowl ads were fully introduced and still reign supreme today.  The introduction of SKY TV in the UK added hundreds of channels for the public to choose from and gave advertisers the first real chance to target the perfect audience for any product or service. The arc of communication between brands, advertisers and consumers was easy to follow. Then came the internet.

It’s a familiar story to most industries. The advent of technology disrupted the well established (and predictable) norms of advertising. With this new fountain of online opportunity came a lot of uncertainty for the traditional media formats. Seen initially as a side dish to the main meal of TV, radio and print media, the internet has since threatened to become all three courses. 

The internet has introduced even more options than ever to reach an audience. There are AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) platforms that can tap into the viewing patterns of the YouTube generation alongside SVOD (Subscription video on demand) that runs its content ad free.

This new world of TV means broadcasters have had to sharpen their tools to stay competitive. There are now some great options for brands to target niche markets through the SKY AdSmart system and gather data and metrics via companies such as Adalyser.

It’s a constantly evolving landscape and we’re keeping a keen eye on what happens next and how to make the best use of the unfolding advancements. The last 5 years have seen massive change. What changes will we see to TV Advertising in the future? 

Key takeaway #2 

Content, Context & Talent (The ingredients of great TV advertising) 

One excellent segment of the day was the ‘Content, context and talent’ panel discussion chaired by Claire Heys (ITV) with stellar guests Simon Daglish (ITV) and Leon Harlow (YMU agency). It was a real in depth look at the way brands can utilise TV to get the most from their content and their talent. The idea of creating advertising that is a part of the culture of entertainment is one that really caught our imagination.

One of the best examples highlighted was the Suzuki campaign, which was created in tandem with pop titans Take That. The scope of the campaign was incredible, starting with a bunch of eager fans waiting for transport, unaware that they’ll soon be whisked away by their pop idols to the concert for the live performance. The key elements of this creative were the involvement of the talent (Gary Barlow and co) from the beginning, the brand messaging of “fun and joyful” being brought to the front, and the natural moments shared with the fans.

It starts with a big idea, a single organising thought and if we work closely together between production, talent, client and agency then that’s when the magic happens.

Simon Daglish – ITV Deputy MD of Commercial

It was a real masterclass in the future of TV advertising. Bringing all the elements together in a complimentary and integrated way gives advertisers the secret formula for impactful commercial entertainment. Don’t interrupt…. Integrate.

It’s got us thinking about how we can weave together all the elements in our own work. There might not always be the scope to bring superstar talent into the mix but we can certainly look at the two key ingredients of context and content. Ensuring they give our work added levels of meaning and relevance within the surrounding media, ultimately making stronger work for our client and having a bigger influence on our audiences.

Key takeaway #3 

How is TV evolving to reflect new digital platforms? 

Is now the moment for TV to streamline its processes? The big change in human behaviour during 2020 has shown us all what is possible for advertising. How can TV become more agile and flexible in the new digital world? Now more than ever, the main broadcasters are rallying together to keep their medium relevant and competitive. 

The main strengths of TV advertising has always been its ability to support long term brand building with messaging that is more memorable and impactful. This gives your brand consistent and trustworthy results that can’t be found anywhere else. We know that the effects of a TV campaign for a brand is valued as a long term prospect but there are also key metric indicators that show the short term value as well. The return of investment for brands appearing on TV is often expanded due to the scale that can be achieved even in a short media plan. 

There has been a move towards TV becoming a facet of a much larger digital picture. With the sheer volume of online platforms to consider, it has become another option to choose from. The attraction of social media and online advertising is that it can quickly react to the evolving world, giving an instant output for advertisers. It’s also good for gathering instant metrics and reaction to the messaging of ad campaigns. Although TV isn’t far behind on both fronts, it could always benefit for the rules and regulations to be more streamlined and brought into the same arena as the digital world.

While there is always room for improvement, there are strengths of TV that can not be replaced. It is the most trustworthy and effective medium for advertising. 

With the rise in ad watching “bots” clicking through on paid online spots (See “Ad Fraud” presentation by Dr. Augustine Fou) , there is uncertain value in the digital advertising channels. This presentation was an interesting inclusion in the agenda as it is totally focussed on the digital world. It stakes its place primarily because it reflects on the disparity between online marketing and TV advertising when it comes to reliable and trustworthy advertising. There is a certainty that can be achieved with TV, where the marketing is reaching an audience and not just a programmed bot.

With TV you get what you pay for.

Key takeaway #4

“It only takes one TV spot to make you famous”

This quote from Sarah Jones (Director of Planning for SKY) perfectly states exactly what TV advertising is all about. The view that a TV advert could change a brands fortune overnight, is one that really resonates with us when considering the opportunity in the medium. As it stands, TV still maintains the biggest reach in the market. The scattered nature of digital means you can catch pockets of audience here and there over a range of platforms, but TV will capture a percentage of the whole population. That means that you can quickly get a lot of attention on your brand. With a TV set in (nearly) every living room across the land, you’ll have a captive audience with a TV ad. The shared ‘at home’ audience of a household gives your campaign more impact and cultural significance by associating it with the programming around it. 

The three main strands of TV reach are connection, conversation and commonality. When we gather round the big screen in the living room, there is a connected viewing experience. When we watch the highs and lows of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, we do it together. It’s the same communal experience that binds our spending habits and gives the TV commercial it’s main influence and power. We talk about what we watched together and with those people we connect with outside the household. We make our recommendations, share our favourites and it gives us all something in common.

Building a world famous brand takes time and consistent exposure. When you advertise on television, it gives you a scale like no other medium. There might not be the immediate response to sales in the next month or two but you are securing brand worth. It’s how you build a strong brand and keep it strong. Tie this in with great creative and you’ll give your brand the best chance of success. When this creative is connected to a form of entertainment, it enters the everyday language and minds of the public. Brands like Budweiser (World Cup) or Compare the Market (Coronation Street) are famous because they always keep this conversation going constantly.

Key takeaway #5 

Smarter ways to find your audience. 

No matter what way you look at the stats, digital advertising is outspending TV. It would be foolish not to recognise the giant shift towards digital platforms in advertising. While TV is still the biggest hitter in the market, it is also being viewed as a part of a larger marketing plan for more and more companies. The main question should be how can TV and digital work in harmony?

One of the biggest discussions surrounded ways to improve data capture. There are some solid metrics that have been used by TV for some time now, such as regional testing (ITV Regional, Sky Adsmart), sales tracking and media auditing. These are all evaluation techniques that take a certain amount of time and concerted effort to decipher. The ability to get these results quicker to compete with the rolling data that can be captured with digital is essential to the continued success of television. One company that has been at the forefront of TV analytics is ‘Adalyser’, who provide fast access to data relating to linear TV adverts and connect the dots between an audience viewing on Linear TV and the digital actions they take. 

If you want to supercharge your ad campaign then there’s no better way than a TV presence. As echoed by Sarah Jones’ quote above – it’s the best way to make your brand famous. 

To make your campaign work smarter, you need to spread the influence across as many channels as possible. This is about combining methods of reach, using TV as the main act and the various social media and online options to support it. Making sure you use TV advertising for big reach and impact and spreading this messaging out to the various limbs of online influence will help your investment work harder.

Overall we have to commend the team at Mediatel for doing a fantastic job of putting together an event under the current world situation. As a production house that specialise in commercial TV, we found it a really great source of current info and discussion. We’ll look forward to the next one (Hopefully we can be there in person!).

If you want to do some more digging around the subject, check out the entire event for yourself right here