CAMPAIGN CRAFT FORUM: What effect will digital TV have on commercials?

MARK LETHAM - Managing director The Clinic

MARK LETHAM - Managing director The Clinic

Potentially, it could be very good for us all. One of the areas of

constipation for the business is the cost of airtime. With digital TV

will come more airtime and lower prices, and so many more opportunities

for new advertisers. There will be more airtime to fill and, because of

that, a restaurant chain or even one branch of a shop could afford to

get on to TV.

’New advertisers, however, will require cheaper commercials


This will be possible with much of the digital production capability

already in place. If digital TV and digital production techniques

develop hand-in-hand, there is no reason why high-quality commercials

cannot be produced for less money. We’re not far now from the demise of

35mm film in commercials production. I don’t think quality will drop as

a result of all this, however, so long as production costs drop at the

same time.

’Another effect will be an increased variety of responses to client


High-quality commercials with feature film production values will still

have a role, but we will see a clear divide between the top end of the

industry and the medium and smaller companies. We will also see more

narrative commercials where entertainment value carries the message - a

move back to the traditional roots of British commercials


JONATHAN DAVIES, Head of TV Leo Burnett

Digital TV has tremendous implications for advertising, not least once

it becomes truly interactive. When that happens, it won’t be long before

TV commercials contain an icon on which viewers can click to immediately

access that advertiser’s website. In this way the internet will become

integrated into advertising campaigns and creative ideas will have to

follow this through.

’There will come a time when creatives in agencies will want to know

more about web technology. This will be relevant for all advertisers -

even those not directly using it for their own campaigns.

It will be interesting to see what will happen when an advertiser takes

viewers away from an ad break to go on to the net. First in break will

become even more of a premium position.

’Digital TV also means wide-screen TV: we’re going to move from a 4x3 TV

screen to 16x9 wide screen, feature film format. This may not sound

especially significant. But consider the fact that it will take a number

of years before everyone in the UK watches TV on a wide-screen digital

TV set. Until that time all that extra space will be wallpaper. So

commercials-makers will have to focus all the action into a small

section of the TV screen area to cater for those still watching on 4x3


’Current digital TV channels broadcast commercials with a black band

either side to fill the empty space. The industry is still waiting for

confirmation of exactly when everything will be made to digital

production standards. But until this is known, the only possible way

around the problem will be to make different versions of the same


RICHARD IRELAND - Managing director, Complete Facilities

Technologically, digital TV won’t dramatically affect us for a few years

as facilities houses have been at the forefront of digital technology

for the past decade. We are always speaking to manufacturers about new

developments to ensure we are well positioned to take the next step on

the ladder. However, it will take a few years before digital TV will

impact on our future equipment-buying decisions.

’On the shooting side, much will depend on when people start shooting on

digital formats rather than film. Already in US cinemas, digital

projectors are being installed so this shift is surely not far off

Digital TV will enable advertisers to offer CD sound quality, better

picture quality and a truly international standard of broadcast

resolution (replacing the existing 525 and 625 standards) which will

encourage advertising to become more global.

’A lot will change for advertisers over the next five years. The main

thing will be interactivity. It means digital TV will affect the very

nature of what is a TV commercial and an advertising break. Advertising

will have to be designed to appeal to different audiences - even more so

than now. There will be a greater variety of forms - from longer

advertorials to interactive advertising to short-form ads. It will be an

enormous leap for the industry.’

NICK WELCH - Creative director, Ammirati Puris Lintas.

The quality of creative work will become paramount in the digital world

- it can no longer be optional. Digital gives people choice and, in

particular, the choice not to have advertising - something Rupert

Murdoch already seems committed to. So, as creatives we must make sure

we are not totally gob-smacked by the technology.

’The potential for interactive (advertising) doesn’t in itself make a

good ad. You can be more precise, and you can have greater opportunities

to build databases, but I believe people will still treat TV first of

all as a source of entertainment. As an industry we must present

material in an entertaining way. In the future audiences will have many,

many more opportunities to avoid us if we get it wrong.

’As a result of all of this, we will have to raise creative standards

higher than they are today. Advertising will still have to be empathetic

and motivating, but creatives will have to work harder to absorb and

embrace digital in a way which allows for new possibilities without

getting side-tracked. Digital television is not - and never will be - a

substitute for good ideas and creative thinking.’

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