TV advertising is part Usain Bolt, part Mo Farah

TV advertising is a lot like the Olympic Games in ways you might not have immediately realised, reflects Thinkbox's Simon Tunstill.

Usain Bolt: has won Olympic gold medals in 100m and 200m for the third time in Rio
Usain Bolt: has won Olympic gold medals in 100m and 200m for the third time in Rio

Watching synchronised swimming the other day – as I do every four years without fail – I was marvelling at a well-executed eggbeater and looking forward to some side fishtails and maybe a stack lift, when my mind was hijacked. 

I started thinking about integrated marketing campaigns.

Try as I might to return my thoughts to the watery kaleidoscope on screen, I couldn't shake integrated marketing from my mind. For what is integrated marketing if not many components moving in harmony for a greater overall result – often involving swimwear?

And then, drunk on marketing metaphor, I started to wonder if there was a way to draw some gratuitous illuminating parallels between the Olympics and TV advertising specifically.

With relief, I realised there was…

Sprinting and long distance

TV advertising is part Usain Bolt, part Mo Farah, which means it has a strange signature pose where it points to the side with one arm while curving the other upwards to form half a heart shape on top of its head. It also means it does things rapidly and over the long term for brands. 

Usain Bolt

TV is explosive out of the blocks and quickly gets into its stride, generating powerful short-term effects like sales, spikes in search, and word of mouth on- and offline. For instance, Group M’s recent response study showed how TV creates 33% of media-driven sales in the short to medium term, more than any other communication channel. 

Mo Farah

But it is over the longer term where TV wins the most golds. It starts strongly and stays stronger for longer than other media, delivering high ROI at high volumes of spend – and does this for a long time, partly fuelled by Quorn. TV delivers nearly the same business effect again, in the year after the campaign started – but these long distance effects happen long after most ROI studies cease analysing.

The vault

TV advertising works beautifully on its own, a springboard that takes brands somersaulting and double twisting to great success by returning the highest profit ROI and the biggest business effects of any media…

Coxed eight

…but why would you only do TV when it works so much better as a team player? Stick it in the team events and watch the team power through the water. TV is a steroid for other media (although that might mean it would be banned from competing).

Badminton doubles

If you want a very potent badminton doubles team smashing the feathers off the effectiveness shuttlecock look no further than TV plus online – campaigns that use TV and online together are twice as efficient as those that incorporate brand advertising with other kinds of activation channels.


TV’s scale and mass reach are obviously some of its greatest weapons. But its quiver is also full of highly targeted arrows – especially with innovations like Sky AdSmart and the dawn of programmatic TV – so it can hit whatever bullseyes you are after.

Jessica Ennis-Hill

TV is expert in lots of different things: 30-second spots, themed breaks, contextual advertising sponsorships, product placements, suites of broadcaster VOD advertising formats, advertiser-funded programmes…the list goes on.


TV has a broad, muscly back and buckets of powdered chalk. Its grunt is a fearsome sound.

More importantly, it has the quality and volume of content – and viewers – to carry many thousands of advertisers on its shoulders with proven effectiveness at high levels of investment. It can take the weight, so brands can keep investing in TV and see higher returns for longer.

That’s probably enough of that now.

Simon Tunstill is the communications director at Thinkbox

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