PERSPECTIVE: The digital era will afford choice only for the big players

Last week I heard a TV engineer talk about the future. The only bit I understood was his theory that Britain is so far off the pace in terms of TV technology that the likes of Sony and Philips regard us as a second-class country. Given the excitement of last Friday’s announcement about digital TV from the cream of British broadcasting, the idea that we’re somehow behind the rest of the world sounds, well, worrying.

Last week I heard a TV engineer talk about the future. The only bit

I understood was his theory that Britain is so far off the pace in terms

of TV technology that the likes of Sony and Philips regard us as a

second-class country. Given the excitement of last Friday’s announcement

about digital TV from the cream of British broadcasting, the idea that

we’re somehow behind the rest of the world sounds, well, worrying.



But fear not. One of the lessons of history is that victory does not

always go to those with the most advanced technology. If it did, Vietnam

would now be the 52nd US state, we’d all be using eight-track stereo

cartridges and cable would be dominant.



Now, it’s terribly easy to get lost in all the dizzy excitement about

British Digital Broadcasting, but what does it all mean for advertisers

and agencies?



1) Cable is probably dead. It’s had its chance and it’s missed it. If BT

doesn’t kill it off, digital terrestrial soon will.



2) The real power in television will lie with the talent. As demand for

programming grows exponentially, so the stars whose presence guarantees

success can name their price. Agencies and advertisers take note: using

the likes of Billy Connolly and Harry Enfield in all your ads will

become prohibitively expensive. (This may, of course, be a good

thing.)



3) There will be so much airtime to fill that the opportunities for

advertiser-funded and supplied programming will grow, as will that for

co-productions that include advertisers - and why not agencies? - acting

as principal. Of course, only the bigger players can do this, which

makes the future for everybody else a bit grim. Control of or access to

content will become vital.



4) Media buyers need scale. This is not merely to negotiate with bigger

media owners, but also to keep up with a 30-, 40- or 100-channel

world.



In such an environment, how does the buyer know what he’s buying

into?



How can he keep his research up to date? The demands on resources will

be enormous, the answer to which is scale or, to put it another way, a

commodity market. No wonder Martin Sorrell is banging on the way he

is.



No wonder Carat merged YMG with TMD.



5) Big advertisers will negotiate bigger, more all-encompassing deals.

For example, a BT deal with Carlton could include elements of

sponsorship, co-production, advertiser-supplied programmes, freefone

deals and normal spot-buying across 20 channels. The deal will cover off

all Carlton’s ITV interests, digital TV, videos and cinema. Buyers may

find themselves squeezed out of a negotiating process conducted between,

say, Martin Bowley and Stafford Taylor, relegated only to micro planning

within an umbrella framework.



For the consumer, this new world is all about choice. For advertisers,

paradoxically, unless they are big enough and quick enough, choice could

be restricted.



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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).