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
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
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
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.