Digital killed the television star…


In October, Sony announced it would be moving its Christmas advertising investment from conventional TV advertising to radio and online media. This begs the question: as firms move more and more investment into digital marketing, will digital marketing see the end of the power (and expense) of TV advertising? And for TV advertising, where did it all go wrong?

While marketers may watch ad breaks with the same attention they would give to the TV show they accompany, it would seem not every viewer enjoys them as much. Recent complaints from viewers to TV networks have been that ad breaks are far too frequent, far too long and, in general, disturb the pace and experience of watching a TV show. With the cap on ad break length doubled last year (from 3 mins to 6 mins), has TV advertising push it too far?

Viewers looked for a means to enhance their experience again – enter the Sky+ box. Over the past decade, the introduction of Sky+, Smart TV and other controlled media platforms, means that viewers are watching fewer and fewer ads. Viewers began enjoying the flexibility of choosing what they want to watch, when they want to watch it. In a generation where the average person is time-poor, viewers finally had the opportunity to enjoy television how they want to, and to some extent were personalising their viewing schedules. Gone are the days of the TV schedule printed in the daily paper dictating when you watch your favourite TV show; say hello the personal planner supplied by your TV provider. With this came the trend of fast-forwarding TV adverts, where viewers can watch their favourite shows, in less time, with fewer interruptions.

Brands needed a solution, and it was simple – meet your customers where they are going, and where they are going to more and more – the Internet. Digital marketing’s time to shine! That time came in one way with the increase of on-demand online TV streaming. Viewers that are no longer tuning in at the scheduled time and can stream to their computer or tablet from the network sites at a time that suits them; more tailored TV if you must.

Brands use this by booking promo spots at the beginning of a programme (which as we all know can’t be skipped). This also provides many other online marketing opportunities in the form of background skins and banners (check out YouTube for the ultimate use of rented space). Offer people a limited time to view TV content (e.g. new episodes only up for a week) and you have a targeted, engaged audience for your digital campaign.

Viral videos can’t go without a mention when discussing digital marketing. The recent campaigns from Cadbury’s Gorilla, John Lewis’ many emotional ad stories and Old Spice show that TV and digital can work together, but successful viral videos can travel quicker and increase brand awareness all at much less cost to TV.

I am by no means disregarding TV advertising as a channel to the mass market; TV still plays a vital role in building brands. However, brands need to understand where their customers are looking, and if digital marketing can provide a more effective channel to their customers. If TV is the answer, then brands and advertisers alike have the challenge of capturing viewers before they press fast forward…