It's time to stop moaning and love the TV medium

By Claire Beale, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 06 October 2006 12:00AM

'The answer's a 30-second TV ad. Now what's the question?' OK, it's an advertising agency cliche. It smacks of old-school advertising, and creative superiority. And I'd be amazed if anyone ever vocalises such a sentiment these days. But I'd also be amazed if it wasn't still a prevalent thought in some significant corners of big creative departments.

And why not? It's not hard to see why agencies like making TV ads. First they imply reasonable marketing budgets and brand investment, a more significant role for the ad agency in the client's marketing heart and mind, bigger agency fees, glossier agency reels. And the creatives get to play movie-maker for a few days.

For media agencies, too, TV buying departments are a whopping overhead ... no matter how media neutral a media agency likes to think it is, it would be economic suicide to maintain a bloody big buying department and consistently recommend stunt advertising.

And, at least as far as some of the smaller TV players are concerned, TV sales teams are often among the most innovative and creative media owners, constantly finding new and engaging ways of using the TV advertising medium.

Yet, on the other hand (and Murdoch MacLennan's reign at The Telegraph aside), you'd be hard-pressed to find a medium more vilified among adland's chattering classes at the moment.

Of course, after years of arrogant big-dicking, there's a sense that broadcasters such as ITV deserve a bit of a kicking: ITV1's share of viewing dipped to an all-time low in the summer, and advertisers have wasted no time voting with their feet, walking their wallets over to other channels and other media. All of this has quickly become good sport and, in the way we journalists have of over-analysing other media, a full-blooded (and bloody) national newspaper pastime.

Thinkbox, the TV marketing body headed by the impressive Tess Alps, must be tearing its collective hair out. Just as it's finally getting its house in order, faith in TV seems at an all-time low. Or rather faith in ITV1 is at an all-time low - despite the proliferation of TV channels, ITV1 still defines the market to such an extent that when it sneezes the other channels get sprayed.

Therein lies the Thinkbox opportunity and challenge, of course. But if you take a look at the letters page opposite, Starcom's Chris Locke does a better job than I've seen in a long time for making the case for TV advertising. Perhaps it takes his sort of shoot-from-the-hip, say-it-as-it-is, bollocks-free bluntness to really cut through. But Locke's right. While the ad industry is getting digital-obsessed, if not digital-compliant, and at the same time enjoying seeing some of TV's swinging dicks humbled, TV is quite an attractive advertising proposition right now.

There's something of a renaissance (OK, a small one) in TV ads as entertainment (3, Virgin Trains, Sony Bravia, Honda) and TV's ability to shift opinions and products is well rehearsed. And, heck, it's better value for money than ever. The fact that it's become unfashionable for some clients dazzled by digital ignores its immense power as a hearts-and-minds medium. And, as anyone who watched Cracker on Sunday night could testify, the impact of a brilliant programming environment beats the context of the web any day.

Who, really, does it serve to keep knocking the most potent advertising medium? Yes, I know the business press (us) piles the pressure on when promises are broken and media owners fail to deliver. And rightly so - the entire industry suffers when the nation's biggest media owners undermine their own franchise through incompetence. But agencies and clients also have a responsibility to defend and support the key advertising vehicles. I can't promise not to pick over ITV's next set of poor viewing figures, or highlight the next advertising slump. But I can absolutely guarantee to keep celebrating bold brand-building TV ad campaigns and the sheer power of the medium.

claire.beale@haynet.com.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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