Marketers believe PVRs will help targeting of consumers

New research has cast doubt on the belief that marketing directors are dreading the onward march of new technology such as PVRs and gaming consoles.

A study by Manning Gottlieb OMD has shown that most heads of marketing are ready to embrace the change, despite fears that the technology revolution will lure consumers away from traditional TV-spot advertising.

The findings show that, while 46% of marketers canvassed expect PVRs such as Sky+ to create “radical change” in the television market place, even more – a surprising 60% – believe these gadgets will allow them to target consumers with greater accuracy.

A further 46% see PVRs as a means of tailoring their TV commercials to suit the individual viewer and 21% believe PVRs will result in more “efficient” smallscreen advertising.

The survey of 138 marketers from a cross-section of consumer brands – conducted online over a two-week period between June and July this year – shows that just 16% of those who took part believe that PVRs offer no opportunity to improve the impact of advertising on TV.

And only 2% of those think that these developments spell the end of TV-spot advertising “as we know it”.

The study appears to refute widespread fears that new technology such as PVRs could spell disaster for the commercial television industry.

Alison Wright, managing director of Manning Gottlieb OMD, said: “There’s a great deal of scaremongering about the impact of new technologies on traditional advertising. Actually, for those brands which are forward looking and prepared to adapt, there are many new opportunities.”

She added: “Marketing teams should be challenging their agencies to shape up to this new world.”

The research also reveals that 64% of those participating see video games as a significant new advertising medium and 49% regard consumer-created media – such as digital photography, web-logging and instant messaging – as an opportunity. Just 4% see these activities as a threat while 36% think they are both.

The research was conducted as part of MG OMD’s Living Room of the Future project, through which The Source, the agency’s new strategic unit, headed up by Neil Hurman, looks at how changes in technology might affects advertisers.

Bernard Balderston, associate director of UK media at Procter & Gamble, said: “This research doesn’t surprise me. I have a lot of sympathy with its findings. There can be a lot of negativism in public comment about technology changes and opportunities in the market place.”

“P&G is very positive about the challenges and opportunities that we find ourselves faced with today.

“We’ve recognised very clearly that the consumer is boss in terms of what consumers do with their time – and we therefore need to be flexible and adaptive in the way we reach them.

“Some of the new technology which is coming in, like PVR, which is widely quoted as a classic example, presents a significant opportunity. There’s no point in being like King Canute, standing at the shore holding up my hand and saying that the water’s not going to rush all over me. Life isn’t like that.”

He added: “I remember when the video cassette recorder came into the market place. An awful lot of people were saying the same sort of thing about VCRs as they are now saying about PVRs, which was that you could fastforward through the commercials, this was the end of life as we knew it and that the television commercial was dead.”

The same sort of pessimists were now saying that the PVR was about to kill off the TV commercial market, said Balderston, adding: “I don’t think it will.”

He said: “We have to embrace change and if we don’t do that then, frankly, our business will be dead.”

Balderston warned that businesses fearful of the future were hardly going to be in the best frame of mind to make the smartest commercial decisions.

But BJK&E’s head of TV Andrew Benningfield, who admits he skips through the ads on his Sky+ set, believes the device has been a cannibal unleashed on the ad market – enough to give the jitters to the biggest telly addicts among marketing directors.

“If you know viewers aren’t watching the ads, then you’re bound to ask why you should spend money on those channels,” he said.

Benningfield fears that the likes of Sky and ITV, which see the potential of ad revenue vanishing by the bucketload, will look to the one area where it should still be secure, the mustsee live television events – and hike up their prices.

The boom some fear will cause TV ad bust.

The PVR has arrived with a bang. Sales of Sky+ went through the roof this year – up to 322,000 customers as of 31 March, compared to just 79,000 during 2003.

While, by Sky’s standards, the takeup has not yet reached critical mass, if it continues at that rate it will not be long before most of its customers have this technology – which, crucially for the advertising industry, enables viewers to skip ads.

With more than 60% of viewers now living in multichannel homes, there is a lot of concern over the looming threat to the 30-second spot.

Some even go so far as suggesting that its chances of long-term survival are as slender as those of the new Iraqi president, especially as there is talk that Sky may eventually give the Sky+ box away.

But the new research, conducted by Manning Gottlieb OMD, shows that many marketing directors do not necessarily see the growth of Sky+ as the beginning of the end.

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