Media: Russell Davies

I'm very excited. I've had my first complaining letter about this column. And it's from Tess Alps. She's famous. I've heard of her.

It's a brilliantly typical Campaign letter too, in that she managed to misconstrue my point sufficiently that she could write in and make the case that she's paid to make. Genius. But I'm going to foil her little game by unexpectedly and completely agreeing. That'll show her.

Because it's as true now as it's ever been - a great TV ad is the most powerful, effective, business-changing communications tool that marketing has invented. It's just that a TV ad that's merely good is increasingly a pointless waste of money.

Let's start with the great; nothing is as potent as a brilliant TV commercial, shovelled rapidly into popular culture via broadcast television. Suddenly your brand is on everyone's lips, your sales force is energised and your product is flying off the shelves (or whatever metaphoric delivery mechanism is appropriate for your business). And it's all startlingly good value for money.

Sure, you might pay a bit more for some above-average talent and a decent bit of music, but these things are virtually free when your ad is being parodied on mainstream TV and you're 40 per cent above target. Great television advertising delivers incomparably brilliant ROI.

The only problem is when you let it all slip a notch and you start making TV that's only good, or, heaven forefend, average. Because you don't just get a campaign that's a bit less effective, you suddenly drop off an efficacy cliff and end up with a colossal waste of money.

People are ever more adept at tuning out that which doesn't captivate and "average ad" is probably the legal definition of non-captivating. They'll dodge us through time-shifting, channel-selection or looking-the-other-way, but that old world of an average TV campaign delivering a respectable up-tick in sales and knocking a decent dent in the tracking report has long gone.

This has always bugged me about the old/new media debate. The old media is condemned based on the totality of what's been done (and by definition a lot of that is average or worse). The new media is praised, based on what a few pioneers have done (most of whom are more likely than the average to be smart, forward-looking and imaginative).

This is not a reasonable comparison. Imagine how awful the average branded content idea will be when every company is trying to do it. The real challenge is not to just explore bold new media, it's to try not to be average.


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