Media Forum: Televisionaries: a success?

Did Thinkbox's event succeed in boosting TV's fortunes, Ian Darby asks.

The commercial TV business faces some massive issues, not least sliding revenues and cynicism from the advertising community as younger, trendier media put their case for a share of the marketing budget.

Last week's Televisionaries event in London, organised by the TV industry trade body Thinkbox, sought to inject some excitement back into the medium by focusing on the future of TV, and advertising's role within it.

Broken into two sessions, Televisionaries' speakers included Andy Duncan, the chief executive of Channel 4, the former Endemol chief Peter Bazalgette and ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham. Presentations were interspersed with interactive audience voting and specially commissioned content featuring the likes of The X Factor and Family Guy.

So what did the assembled audience of ad, media agency and marketers make of the day itself? Did it restore their faith in the medium? Phil Georgiadis, the chief executive of Walker Media, argues that the event did what it said on the tin but that there was one glaring omission: "It struck me that there was no new news. Andy Duncan gets up and says there isn't enough innovation in planning and buying TV but maybe he needs to look at how his organisation and others trade the medium in a way that encourages the normalisation of solutions for every advertiser."

Georgiadis says that because Thinkbox doesn't involve itself in trading issues, a major part of the TV business was absent from the presentations: "What Thinkbox has to do, if its shareholders really embrace it, is to have a big think about trading in a world where TV trading has become all about share of TV market rather than share of the total advertising market."

Ian Armstrong, the communications manager at Honda, viewed the event favourably: "Thinkbox is a very effective organisation at promoting TV. The challenge for me is that it was quite a receptive audience with a vested interest in the success of TV so there was a risk that it wouldn't have the argument of looking at how TV works with everything else.

"In terms of creating fissures in the debate, I didn't find myself being challenged or disagreeing with the views on show but I did get the sense that TV has a role to play within a wider picture."

Armstrong says there wasn't much debate over short-term recessionary issues but thought the event did well to take a long-term view: "The broader issue is 'should we be advertising on TV?' and, in this sense, it was a good day with good speakers. It highlighted the evidence to support continuing to use TV, which helps me in my internal discussions."

The view from the creative agency side of the fence was also relatively positive. Richard Warren, a founding partner of Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, says: "It was a timely reminder of the value of television. The points Marie Oldham (the chief strategy officer of MPG) made about TV having been unfairly overlooked as a bit boring were well made."

Warren felt that some of the content and idents on offer during the day were a bit overlong and not too compelling but otherwise enjoyed the event: "It does a really good job positioning TV as a medium, it was relatively modern and I liked the argument of seeing TV as a brand across several platforms."

Nick Theakstone, the chief executive of Group M, had some small frustrations, notably that the issue of TV companies collaborating with brands on content could have been more fully addressed. However, he adds: "The Bazalgette, Duncan and Fincham session was fantastic. The TV industry puts quite a lot of money into Thinkbox but, that said, it would be sad if a £3.3 billion industry didn't have a corporate trade body."

On the issue of content, Theakstone says: "Being more joined up with the whole world of content and exploring new business models would jointly benefit everybody."

MAYBE - Phil Georgiadis, chief executive, Walker Media

"Thinkbox and Tess Alps do a great job articulating the benefits of TV. The structural issue is that Thinkbox can't really address the issue of trading. As we move into a world where we are waiting to see if CRR is taken away, the market is increasingly traded as a commodity."

YES - Ian Armstrong, customer communications manager, Honda

"It was good to see that it wasn't all just about TV - the stuff about online working with TV provided a balanced view. I didn't walk away with one golden nugget that I'd missed previously but it's no bad thing to reinforce TV's message, which is Thinkbox's remit."

YES - Richard Warren, partner, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners

"The event showed that content made by TV companies is still very well made. I found it invigorating from a creative agency standpoint."

YES - Nick Theakstone, chief executive, Group M

"There were some very bright and insightful presenters. So even if this was just a day for reflection and to inspire us about TV, then it worked by providing that moment to sit back and reflect."

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