The future of TV advertising


I was reading the interview by Piers Fawkes (IF/PFSK) of Niku Banaie (Naked). 

Piers wondered whether the video equipped cell phone might create a new venue for the TV spot.

It’s an important question.  Many of the substitutes for TV advertising are lightening quick or too unstructured (e.g., billboards, product placements in a film, internet banner ads, in situ sampling, event sponsorships).   

As the consumer’s time and attention becomes more fragmented, it becomes harder for the marketer to build brands, manage meanings and create relationships. 

That’s when it struck me: now is the time for the big brands to invest in public transit. 

The big brands helped create television: Kraft Television Theatre (1947-1958), Texaco Star Theater (1948-1956), General Electric Theater (1953-61), and of course the “soap opera” created by P&G. They created these theatres as a way to commandeer the attention of the US consumer.

Public transit can deliver as much as a couple of hours of attention time per consumer.  The cars can be wired for video, or consumers will bring their own 3G devices.  (The Tokyo subway rider has been disappearing into a 3G phone for some years now.)

Naturally, the commuter trains would have to be roomier and more pleasant than the present ones.  But then again, if “Metro lines” were being run from deep pockets and Madison Avenue, I’m guessing this would be inevitable.

This was our mistake: treating public transit as an opportunity for smaller traffic jams, faster rush hours, reduced pollution, Kyoto compliance. What the hell were we thinking?

8 thoughts on “The future of TV advertising

  1. JohnO

    Well, I hope that public transit keeps it’s first goal of lessening traffic jams, and make rush hours smaller. But if they can offset the increase in cost (of course, it sits on a logorithmic curver, 90% more effort to get 10% more results, etc.) through advertising, great.

    Honestly though only first-tier cities have widely used public transit systems. The effort needs to be spent on getting people to use it. Because, people won’t use it when it gets plastered by ads (just like every other corner of our life).

    First-tier cities:
    and, best of all New York

    Outside of these cities, a large enough part of the population doesn’t ride the transit. While advertising does already exist on transit, it is still in the 40’s and 50’s – paper and glue, so I do agree with you on this point, it can certainly be explored as an alternative.

  2. JohnO

    Oops.. email me if you reply… chances are I won’t remember to check back tomorrow… always interested in discussion

  3. Matt

    Few American cities are built in such a way that public transit is ever going to be viable.

    Seriously…until the bus and the train are so good that you can give up your car, you have to have a car. And if you have a car, why wait for the bus?

    Public transit only works when there’s a critical mass of people who work in a place where land is scarce enough that parking is expensive. Like…well, those cities you mentioned. For the exurb-dominated rest of the country, the best you’re ever going to get is a bus system that serves too little, runs too seldom, starts too late, stops too early, costs too much, and doesn’t get enough use to be self-sustaining. Advertising isn’t going to change that one way or the other.

    FWIW, I live in a city with great public transit and am happy to do so. I’d love it if the rest of America felt the same way. But I accept that most of them don’t.

  4. Johnn Ballard

    Hey, I don’t think it’s a crazy idea. The merits of public transportation are clear. Besides, there will always be a bigger population in suburbia than in town simply because of the arithmetic of geometry: more area around the circumference of a circle than in the middle. If you’re gonna have a vibrant city, commuting is a price to be paid.

    I heard somewhere that the big amusement parks were first built by railroads because rails were going unused at the end of the line. A destination at the end of the line created more rail traffic. Attracting a captive audience to be targeted for advertising purposes is not much different.

  5. Steve Portigal

    About six months ago we saw an interesting project highlighted on the blogosphere in which a team of guerilla artists snuck into various NYC subway trains or stations late at night and filmed themselves replacing all the advertisements with specially designed and printed art posters.

    My Google-fu is failing me and I can’t find any mention of the site right now. It was pretty interesting to watch and consider.

    I think I read about it on core77 but I am pretty sure someone else blogged it there, not me. Hmm.

  6. Arthur

    This is a great idea. Regardless of the perceived lack of “convenience” and “efficacy” when compared to the car, public transit will always get more riders by reducing the price. Owning a car is not cheap, especially when $1 buys a trip across town on a bus. Sure, it may be more inconvenient for some people, but the there will always exist a demographic for which the private car is still preferred.
    If additional advertising in public transit helped to fund improvements in infrastructure and reduced fares, it could definitely be a win-win situation for everybody.

    On the other hand, this model has been tried in other modes. Consider NetZero, who offered cheaper Internet access in exchange for screen real estate. Successful? They are still around. Effective? I am not sure.

  7. neil christie

    Here in London, England most people, regardless of their economic status, and despite the bombs, get around by public transport. And anyway, people in the UK are, I think, much more prepared to use public transport even if they own a car. So you’ll find things like video screens on newer buses and trains, and big LCD screens on major railway stations and platforms. I’ve also been in one taxi-cab that had a screen in the back showing some sort of special in-cab news and advertising channel.But often the medium is not a real replacment for TV as there tends to be no sound, or inaudible sound. (Other than on the Heathrow Express where sound and vision both work well on what is a quiet, modern train.)So it’s more like a moving poster.

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