OPINION: EDITOR’S COMMENT

By STEFANO HATFIELD, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 25 September 1998 12:00AM

Next week sees one of the seminal developments in the history of the UK advertising and media industries: the launch of digital television, ironically from the same Battersea building that used to house the ill-fated BSB.

Next week sees one of the seminal developments in the history of

the UK advertising and media industries: the launch of digital

television, ironically from the same Battersea building that used to

house the ill-fated BSB.



It appears surprisingly difficult to persuade many people in advertising

to get that excited about it. Perhaps it’s just the customary knee-jerk,

anti-Murdoch feeling. Perhaps it’s because the Government has declined

to announce a switch-off date for analogue. More likely it’s British

ennui.



Having spent a day judging the inaugural Campaign Media Awards with the

men who control the media budgets of Procter & Gamble, Heinz, Nestle and

Kimberly-Clark, I can tell you clients don’t share that ennui. They want

to be involved and, mostly, don’t have knee-jerk anti-Murdochism.



Of course, they - particularly P&G - have the size of budget that allows

for experimentation with the new medium. One could argue that it’s

almost as important a launch for P&G as for Sky.



As the recent P&G summit demonstrated, the Cincinnati-based giant

believes it needs new media (in the widest sense of the term) to be

successful, will invest as much of its dollars 3 billion annual budget

as it takes, and will employ whatever skill-suppliers it deems most

competent to do so.



However, smaller advertisers must contemplate the realities of digital

with apprehension. They can’t afford to experiment and need to know

their limited monies are well spent. Which brings us to the 30th

anniversary survey in last week’s Campaign.



The results were depressing - especially given that the intention was to

celebrate 30 years of an industry often cited as the best in the

world.


There was a stark finding: 52 per cent of those surveyed switch channels

when the commercial break begins.



That’s a scary figure, given three-quarters of homes still have only

terrestrial. It’s even more worrying when 48 per cent believe the ads

are better than the programmes.



That figure should make programme commissioners hang their heads, but

it’s the challenge the combined findings represent for advertising that

is truly daunting: roughly half of people enjoy commercials, and roughly

half seek actively to avoid them.



’Ad avoiders’ have always been around (’I only watch the BBC’) and the

term is not new. Lowe Howard-Spink, for example, conducts a major

ongoing survey into the phenomenon. But the issue of how to reach them

is going to become even more important.



Evidently, brilliant creative work is the best way, but alone that’s not

enough (61 per cent already believe there is too much advertising on

television). Reaching ad avoiders will require partnership with digital

media owners.



Length and frequency of breaks, the nature of on-air sponsorships,

programme trailers and the other miscellaneous sales pitches that fall

under the heading ’clutter’ need re-examining in this new context.



As Murdoch takes the latest huge gamble in an extraordinary career full

of them, we should all hope that Mark Booth and co at Sky (and future

ONdigital rivals) succeed. It’s in all our interests that they do.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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