It is now commonplace to announce the death of TV advertising. The new marketers are positively noisy on this theme. The assumption is that ads will move from TV to product placement, internet, gaming, blogging, etc.
And it’s not just an assumption. In the UK, Heineken is shifting a £6.5m budget from television to sports sponsorship. Ford now spends about 30%-40% of its ad budget on traditional advertising, compared with around 80% five years ago. The move to online advertising is happening more quickly than expected. According to Heath Terry of Credit Suisse First Boston, the market for online ads will increase 32 percent to $16.6 billion in 2006.
So is this a good idea? Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s not an idea. It’s blind rush from one side of the marketing vessel to the other. We are abandoning TV advertising with scant regard for larger costs.
And there are larger costs. According to the BusinessWeek Top 100 Global Brands Scoreboard, Heineken has falled from #82 in 2001 to #100 in 2005. It is, in other words, hanging on to Top 100 classification by its fingernails. This might not be the time to move from spots to sports.
My argument is (a) that of all the old media devices at the marketer’s disposal, TV advertising created the most potent meaning and value for the brand, (b) that the new media forms of advertising are pretty modest meaning and value makers, and none competes with TV ads, and (c) that the move from TV to other forms of advertising may be expensive for the brand.
Today, I happened to stumble upon the Account Planning Group awards for 2003. (I was searching for the exemplary Ben Malbon.) Here are some of the things I found.
Rebecca Morgan of Bartle Bogle Hegarty got shortlisted for work she did for Barclays. (She may well have won the award. I write this under a little time pressure.)
This market tries to build trust by making banks likeable – we think the job is to make Barclays seem more knowledgeable about money.
This is an interesting marketing proposition and it is impossible for me to imagine that it is something that could be accomplished outside the world of TV (and print) advertising.
Here’s another. Fern Miller of JWT got shortlisted for work he did for Nestle and Kit Kat.
Kit Kat was being forgotten by consumers and nothing about the famous "Have a Break" campaign was helping them to remember. The solution is to reinvent the break territory, turning it from a platform for little more than well-branded entertainment into a powerful opinion about the importance of the break in this, the country with the longest working hours in Europe.
Good luck communicating this in any of the new alternatives. I venture to say none of the campaigns that drew mentions (and awards) from APG could be undertaken in new media advertising (or old media variations).
I know what everyone believes: that people TIVO through ads, that television is losing its audience to gaming and the Internet, that television audiences are fragmenting, that TV channels are multiplying, that the game, is, in effect, up.
This, too, is true: that the alternatives to TV advertising are abysmally bad. Product placement is now regarded with suspicion. From a meaning manufacture point of view, this was always a kind of hitchhiking, effectively borrowing the power and the narrative of the TV show or movie in question.
Google advertising! This is ought to be a punch line. If advertising could be reduced to the classifieds, newspaper advertising would have been plenty, and Madison Avenue would just happen to be a street in Manhattan.
And those colorful, motionful ads that compete for my attention on the websites of New York Times and Wall Street Journal. That’s the problem, isn’t it? I am trying to read!
I don’t doubt that television is dying. But when was the last time you discussed an ad you saw on line, or a product you saw placed in a movie? No one cares about these ads because they do not have powers of metaphor or narrative. The 30 second spot is a precious resource in the world of brand building. To dispense with it is a very bad idea.
For the Account Planning Group Awards for 2003, here.
Anonymous. 2006. Top 100 Global Brands Scoreboard. BusinessWeek. here.
Berman, Saul J. Niall Duffy and Louisa A Shipnuck. The end of television as we know it: a future industry perspective. Publication of the IBM Institute for Business Value. here.
Martinson, Jane 2005. Agency says goodbye to Walter. The Guardian. February 18, 2005. here.
McCracken, Grant. 2006. Product placment as marketing malfaesance. The Blog Sits At…. January 17, 2006. here.
McCracken, Grant. 2005. Madison Avenue and Google: no contest. This Blog Sits At … November 1, 2o05. here.
Thaw, Jonathan. 2005. Online Ad Growth Accelerates, Outpacing Newspaper, TV Spending. Bloomberg.com. December 28, 2005. here.