Big-budget TV ads a thing of the past? Don't bet on it
A view from Danny Rogers

Big-budget TV ads a thing of the past? Don't bet on it

If the period 2009-2013 in advertising and media reflected "austerity Britain", how can we begin to define the next five years?

Thankfully, the latest economic figures and this week’s Bellwether survey suggest that, in 2014, we are indeed entering a new era – one that I’m going to brand, somewhat speculatively, "filmic Britain".

This bright new age is writ large on the big screen. It is no accident that British movies, producers and actors are well-represented in cinema’s current awards season. For example, Gravity – a British film, leading the way in visual FX – was crafted in London’s Soho by Framestore. Interestingly, many of these producers cut their teeth in, and do most of their annual work for, ad agencies.

And British advertising is experiencing its own filmic renaissance: TV ad revenues are up; ad agency bosses universally report increasing investment in TV-style work, thanks to a renewed interest from clients; and this week, Matthew Williams, the marketing activation director at Mondelez International, told Campaign that Cadbury’s campaigns would always use TV because it was the best way "to reach a large number of people with an engaging message".

But, importantly, the nature of filmic content has changed forever. While the most successful marketing campaigns from Christmas 2013 – John Lewis and Sainsbury’s – employed a heavy dose of film, much of this was communicated via non-traditional ad spots: through YouTube films, social media edits and other viral promotions.

The challenge is to apply the old skillsof disruptive creativity and powerful storytelling to the new channel mix

As James Murphy, the chief executive of Adam & Eve/DDB, says: "We are producing as much filmic content as ever – probably more – because it’s being used in much more flexible and multifaceted ways."

And, significantly, this is a virtuous circle of value. The adaptation of "traditional" film assets across many digital channels is driving spend through those channels, not least because film assets are technically richer and media owners will charge a premium for them. Meanwhile, the good news for ad agencies is that producing big-budget "TV work" both continues to provide higher yields and secures their seat at the client’s top table.

So TV advertising in 2014 is certainly not dying. On the contrary, the medium has evolved to the point where filmic content is positively thriving. And the UK industry is well set to take a global lead in the latest innovations.

The big challenge is to apply the old skills of disruptive creativity and powerful storytelling to the complex new channel mix. Easier said than done – and few British companies have yet cracked it – but 2014 is the year when success relies on seizing this opportunity.