Media: Double Standards - How technology is taking TV to greater heights

The new media channels and technologies that are emerging have created even greater creative opportunities for agencies, two TV chiefs argue.

NICK BAMPTON - MANAGING DIRECTOR, VIACOM BRAND SOLUTIONS

- What approach are you taking to telling agencies of new technology developments and new media channels you can offer?

We've invested in two major studies - "Circuits of Cool", which provides us with some invaluable insights about youth, and "Digital Drive", where we're trying to better understand how networked homes behave and respond to advertising. We communicate this to agencies through seminars, meetings, brain-storms, client days and also, of course, try to create dialogue through the trade press.

- What type of people at agencies are you talking to?

We've tried to build relationships in all areas of media and advertising over the past few years. As the media process in the 80s and 90s broke down into silos to gain scale and cost benefit, it hasn't prepared us that well for the digital age. We saw an opportunity to help join all the bits up again in collaboration with our partners to create fantastic forms of integrated media communication.

- Is there a danger for agencies that they get cut out of the loop because it's easier to talk directly to clients around new developments and opportunities?

No chance. Clients need agencies to give them a balanced opinion, be at the heart of the strategy and execute it correctly. Interestingly for agencies, that's often what they do, but not what they get paid for. I think that's the danger. Media owners would be mad to make out they can take on this role.

- Will mobile TV ever take off as a revenue stream?

In content terms, it's already doing well. We've experienced more than 2.5 million downloads in the past year. However, like all upcoming technologies, the hype tends to outweigh the reality. Mobile is still likely to grow (although it has slowed in the past few months), but we need to resolve the issues of environment and context in which messages appear, before real advertising growth can occur.

- How quickly are non-spot revenues growing for you?

At VBS, we prefer to talk "bespoke", as nearly all of our promotions and partnership deals include spots. Bespoke solutions are the fastest-growing area of our business, representing more than 10 per cent of VBS revenue.

- What's the single best bit of TV technology you've seen lately?

The last technology that I found really useful was the Slingbox (the ability to watch my home TV through a PC anywhere in the world) and I really think HD takes TV to an even higher level.

- Describe your approach to selling "new opportunities" to advertisers. Is it usually as a bolt-on to TV spot advertising?

Good advertising doesn't have bolt-ons! Look, no-one likes to be sold at. They want good ideas, solutions and value in response to specific briefs: in fact, solutions that are focused on driving results for their clients. We believe that any new opportunity has to fit in with this philosophy and we mustn't allow ourselves to be seduced by the thrill of the new, as it can appear very shallow.

- What in-house resource do you have in place to understand the development of creative executions for things such as interactive TV and mobile TV advertising?

In MTV, Paramount Comedy and Nickelodeon, we have considerable expertise in the content arena. We've always been less paranoid about crossing the supposed demarcation line between content and commercial. However, creative executions are about ideas and we work with a number of production companies externally.

- What's good about working in TV right now?

Crikey, where do I start? There has never been a more exciting time to work within the TV business. TV is changing its structure and processes and the opportunities coming up are fantastic.

PAUL CURTIS - DEPUTY MANAGING DIRECTOR, SKY MEDIA

- What approach are you taking to telling agencies of new technology developments and new media channels you can offer?

There's an array of opportunities but we're not interested in technology for technology's sake. It's all about the personalisation, engagement and community that our assets can bring to clients. We've a team of ten people out there talking to the industry about our approach, which we've called "3sixty". There's also a CD-Rom, which sets out 24 different opportunities from partnerships in our magazines, to mobile TV sponsorship.

- What type of people at agencies are you talking to?

We want to engage with everyone - creatives, buyers and planners - because the chain doesn't work if any link is missing. It's vital to tailor creative to each platform and recognise that traditional media metrics don't apply to most new opportunities. All parties have to be brave enough to try something different.

- Is there a danger for agencies that they get cut out of the loop because it's easier to talk directly to clients around new developments and opportunities?

No. Clients need agencies and agencies need clients - and media owners need them both. I don't see this changing unless there is a seismic shift in the client/agency relationship.

- Will mobile TV ever take off as a revenue stream?

Like all new technology, people overestimate the short term and underestimate the long term. The greatest risk is the tendency to approach mobile like any other media. A one-size-fits-all approach based on the interruptive model is a turn-off and reduces effectiveness. Nissan's imminent use of three-second sponsorship credits around Soccer AM mobile content shows how to get it right.

- How quickly are non-spot revenues growing for you?

Faster than I expected, but not as fast as my chief financial officer would like.

- What's the single best bit of TV technology you've seen lately?

It's hard to beat the thrill of Drogba sticking one in the top corner in glorious HD.

- Describe your approach to selling "new opportunities" to advertisers. Is it usually as a bolt-on to TV spot advertising?

There's nothing wrong with extending and amplifying a spot campaign but often the best results come with a bespoke solution to the marketing objective. Ford deepened its Sky Sports sponsorship by integrating 12 different elements of our offering, while Jeep's recent launch campaign involved little "spot" airtime, but a heavy presence on some of the 190 websites we sell.

- What in-house resource do you have in place to understand the development of creative executions for things such as interactive TV and mobile TV advertising?

Most often, we work with an advertiser's creative agency by offering insights from our experience and research tools such as SkyView. Occasionally we'll be asked to source creative ourselves.

- What's good about working in TV right now?

What's good is that TV's changing for the better. There are far more opportunities for those who recognise that one size doesn't fit all. Our role is to sell the future that Sky creates - it doesn't get much better than that.