2014 Predictions: The year ahead for...Television

While TV remains the heart of a campaign, the challenge now is to add to the experience so viewers can access the message across a number of touchpoints, Ruth Cartwright says.

Ruth Cartwright
Ruth Cartwright

It has been a fantastic year for television, culminating in the eagerly awaited Christmas campaigns proving yet again that TV remains the starting point of great storytelling. To look forward, however, it often helps to cast our eye further back.

The standout piece of work for me in 2013 was the Lynx Space Academy campaign, which integrated content across TV, online and social media. It performed brilliantly and showcased the true possibility of an integrated campaign via multiple touchpoints. Another great one was Coca-Cola’s personalised bottles. This engaged on a personal level, with thousands of people sharing their experiences once they had found their own name or that of a friend or family member. For me, these partnerships are a stellar example of how things should be executed – with the focus throughout on content.

It’s this area of content that I believe should and will be one of the big themes for 2014. There’s no disputing the fact that TV had a great 2013, and that won’t change this year. The relationship between media owner, media agency and client is the engine that drives every decision made in the realm of TV, and we’re gearing up for dramatic shifts around content, scale and accountability.

While a lot of lip service has been paid to achieving platform-agnostic campaigns, the bulk of work has still remained tightly wound around specific channels. That’s all about to change. The good news is that, in 2014, the conversation will move along to focus more on content.

It’s an inevitable move, since the lines are already becoming increasingly blurred. Many clients have now become media owners, while we’re seeing media owners become brands in the truest sense of the word.

BT Sport partnering with Channel 4 is a standout example of a brand forging a strong new association with content – in this case, with content that isn’t traditionally associated with its vertical. Jamie Oliver is another example of a brand becoming far more focused around content with Food Tube – the perceived barriers of creating and distributing content are eroding as access becomes much easier and cheaper.

Having established clients as producers of quality content, the focus for this year will be to make their content accessible to as many people as possible. We’ll be charged with delivering content that lives and breathes beyond TV, online and offline. So YouTube, video on demand and digital become essential elements of the plan rather than add-ons. The work becomes much more holistic as client assets are threaded through multiple channels. Nothing exists in isolation any more.

And, no, this doesn’t dilute TV, which remains the focus for both client budgets and viewers. Rather, we need to strengthen and draw out the TV proposition so viewers can access the message across multiple touchpoints – a job for clients, agencies and broadcasters.

With around 85 per cent of people still watching live TV, 2014 is about adding to this experience. More than ever, the message will have to translate seamlessly across platforms. The work has to be just as relevant and entertaining at every touchpoint as it is in the living room.

Bringing scale to great ideas

This leads neatly on to one of the big buzzwords for 2014: scale. TV, of course, offers the potential to reach a mass audience quickly. To achieve this level of scale for clients, we return to the crucial relationship between media agency and owner. Where it is solid, we see fantastic examples of an idea extending far beyond the local, from Volvo’s YouTube channel to the Mercedes-Benz "#youdrive" campaign. These projects were born out of content first and succeeded in delivering their message across many platforms. No single medium stood alone – everything was connected and led back to the same message, creating a campaign that made sense at any one touchpoint, while the experience was heightened if viewers interacted with more than one.

2014 will be about understanding how we push forward and create a pertinent and robust system to measure and align TV and online

These are strong examples of innovative work in 2013. However, we should be seeing more like this.

These shouldn’t be in the minority, but rather the goal for every client and agency this year.

The question of transparency

In our TV landscape, the relationships between media agencies, media owners and clients are absolutely critical. I would like to think that the majority of clients want agencies to push them into taking more risks. Agencies create their best work when the barriers between clients and media owners are taken down. Media owners want briefs that allow them the flexibility to create partnerships that are standout reflections of their business and their clients. We are making progress in some of these areas, yet we still have much to do. If we want clients to embrace bigger and better campaigns, then we need to be clear about what and where we are delivering. We can’t expect clients to spend in areas where we are still lacking transparency.

The always-on, real-time nature of TV consumption brings the question of how to track eyeballs to the fore. How can we gather insight on the big slice of the viewing pie that takes place on digital devices and on catch-up services past the established seven-day transmission period?

Barb kicked off the process in 2013 by teaming up with Kantar Media to include online and catch-up measurements. The next segment of this piece of work from Barb – Project Dovetail – aims to blend new and established data sets. More specifically, how do we integrate the new language of digital consumption data with the sorts of viewing figures we’re familiar with? All eyes will be on Barb’s efforts to pull TV and online together and make this area truly addressable.

With more money being invested in this area, clients are quite rightly demanding transparency. As an industry, we need to respond by addressing the issue head-on – looking at not only how many people are viewing ads online, but also how many people aren’t and why not. The holy grail of measurement is looking at a campaign from an audiovisual perspective, and we are already recognising this approach, but without much solid data or even belief behind it. For me, 2014 will be about understanding how we push forward and create a pertinent and robust system to measure and align TV and online.

Initial steps are certainly under way, with Sky AdSmart promising to significantly improve the TV advertising arena – and, undoubtedly, Ad-Smart will place pressure on regional press and direct mail.

Having been beta-tested since August through numerous campaigns with clients, Sky is on target to open up the offering in early 2014, promising both geographical and demographic hypertargeting. For those unfamiliar with the proposition: you are able to download targeted advertising that is then played out via the Sky+ box.

Yet, despite Sky making great steps in the addressable arena, we are still beholden to cost and scale.

Many clients have shied away from the initial cost as it appears expensive. However, when you look at the potential of Sky AdSmart, the price conversation becomes irrelevant. A client will pay for what they believe is relevant to their business and brand, regardless of the price tag. Yet, we are still faced with the issue of scalability – as with any addressable proposition, being too specific limits the output and every client will want to see a tangible return on investment.

Our challenge for this year is to make addressable TV – whether that be via Sky AdSmart or smart TVs or mobile – scalable and transparent to enable clients and brands to invest their money. It needs to be a collaborative effort between all parties: clients need to spend money in areas that they haven’t spent before; agencies need to balance the clients’ known and usual media choices and take risks with new platforms; sales houses have to find incentives that encourage both clients and agencies to spend beyond their comfort zones.

For me, 2013 was the year we started tiptoeing towards greater content, scale and accountability, but I believe (and hope) that 2014 will be the year we make great strides in these areas.

Ruth Cartwright is the broadcast director at Maxus