The fact that Sky has earmarked pounds 6 million for a three-month advertising drive for TiVo should cause advertisers to stir a little uncomfortably in their executive chairs. But this little black box, which has the ability to skip advertising, should make the industry rethink its approach to TV sponsorship, even though a more advertising-friendly box from Pace NDS will, apparently, make an appearance next year.
It is a fact that, pretty soon, subscription revenues for TV channels will overtake advertising revenues. It is also a fact that TiVo launches this month and will build some kind of presence in the UK market. Advertisers need to look at alternative ways of reaching their target audience on TV, other than relying on spot advertising, which is becoming increasingly expensive on the ITV channels. The clutter of programme promotions also doesn't help advertisers' spot advertising presence.
I think that TV sponsorship is a vastly under-rated medium. It is under-rated because many sponsorships fail to capitalise on their presence.
This is a combination of clients not releasing enough money to pay for effective creative work, and of creative agencies often not delivering sponsorship credits that fit in with the programme that they are attached to. They invariably appear to be tacked on to a programme, rather than being an integral part of it.
TV sponsorship is valuable because it is an emotive medium. Since the credits open and close a programme, viewers have expectations of them and the message they carry. They are also, of course, more likely to sit through them, and so will make more judgments about their quality. That's why, apparently, when media owners negotiate sponsorship deals, far more people from the client side tend to get involved with the whole process than with traditional TV advertising deals. But once the deal has been done, the creative content from that deal is low on a client's list of priorities.
There are, of course, sponsorships that clearly work, where the creative has cleverly capitalised on the programme content. Cadbury's sponsorship of Coronation Street immediately springs to mind and is a classic example of what can be produced on a substantial production budget.
But for every TV sponsorship that works, there are a handful that just don't do the job. BeMe.com's sponsorship of Ally McBeal promised to be a good fit but failed to deliver. Emmerdale's Daz idents left me cold and confused and looked particularly lacklustre.
Too often, instead of taking advantage of a slot where they can stand out and make a difference, sponsorship credits become wallpaper TV. To become part of a programme and not be screened out by black boxes or viewers is a valuable and rare opportunity that advertisers should be tripping over themselves to deliver.