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TV advertising doesn’t work like it used to

TV advertising doesn’t work like it used to

If you search the phrase, ‘TV advertising is dead’ on Google you get over 20 million hits. A number warn of TV advertising’s imminent demise. I don’t believe that this pessimistic tone is a quirk of the articles that Google throws up.

If you talk to people in the industry generally there is an emerging consensus based around 3 beliefs:

1. People don’t watch much telly these days.

2. It’s incredibly expensive to advertise on telly.

3. TV advertising just doesn’t work like it used to.

At the risk of seeming to be a stick-in-the-mud I believe that TV as an advertising medium is far from dead. It’s an invaluable part of our armoury. My contention is based on the fact that the three ‘beliefs’ outlined above are more fantasy than fact.  

No one watches TV any more, right?

Wrong, actually. Lots of people are watching telly. TV reaches between 70-80% of adults. Everyday, millions of people sit down in front of the box.                                                                 

And they are sitting down for hours. Over half the population watch at least 21 hours of telly a week. That’s 3 hours a day. It’s not just the old who are sitting in front of the box.  Some 47% of 15-24 year olds watch at least 3 hours of telly a day.

Somewhat surprisingly, this habit hasn’t changed over the years. Despite all the attractions and distractions of our multi-media world people are watching as much TV now as they were in 1996.

People watch TV but it’s too damn expensive to be viable.
Actually, in the words of Billett’s, “TV just keeps on getting cheaper…. as deflation continues it’s a great time to be on TV…TV prices are now at 1995 prices.”   

It may be cheap, but it just doesn’t work as well as it used to.

It’s very easy to nod at this statement. TV ads are such old hat it’s hard to get people excited about them. There are so many of them that it’s hard to tell one from another. It’s all just wallpaper, isn’t it?  

Wrong. TV advertising works. And it may even be more effective now than it was of old. In Marketing in the Era of Accountability Les Binet and Peter Field clearly establish this point.

They make 3 key claims :

1. “Campaigns that have used TV have significantly outperformed those that have not”

2. “…Using TV makes a campaign much more efficient, regardless of budget”

3.” …The effectiveness of TV actually seems to be increasing over time”

So why is TV so brilliant?

1. It lets you win hearts.

TV is brilliant at building emotional associations for a brand. Increasing amounts of research suggest that doing this is not a vanity project. Millward Brown argues that ‘feelings’  (affective and emotional information) are critically important to people when they think about and choose between brands.  

2. It can make you famous.

An ITV study suggests that there is a strong correlation between brand fame and purchase intent. In turn, 34% of people agree that ‘advertising is the single most important feature in making a brand famous’. Within that, 51% of people believe that TV advertising is the advertising that drives fame  .

3. It gets you talked about.

Much has been written recently on the power and importance of word of mouth. TV advertising can be a powerful way of generating chatter.

The Honda Cog commercial got tongues wagging.  The ad was downloaded 2.3 million times. Over 3000 Google newsgroups discussed the ‘new Honda ad’. It’s a brilliant example of ‘old media’ activity creating ‘new media’ buzz. And, as more people saw the ad more, desire to own a Honda increased.   

4.  It gives your brand public meaning.

The brand you buy says something about you. The ITV study referred to earlier argues that of the components of fame, “universal meaning” is the one that correlates most closely to movements in market share . TV, because it is a genuinely public medium is well placed to build perceptions of a brand among the public.

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