Opinion: Perspective - All parties must share the blame for TV's

I'm writing this column in anticipation of another cracking night at the British Television Advertising Awards. Like all awards ceremonies, the glittering array of excellent work you see on the night inevitably leaves you proud to be part of the industry.

What you generally don't appreciate is all the stuff that didn't win, didn't make it to the shortlist but was entered in the hope that it might make the grade.

Given that the ad industry churns out thousands of TV ads every year, you'd imagine that the work considered good enough to enter an awards scheme such as BTAA would at least be at the top-end of the quality barometer. Yet it's clear from the comments of this year's jury chairman, DDB's Jeremy Craigen, that that's not the case. Yes, the awards will celebrate some awesome work, but the jury had to sit through an awful lot of second-rate entries.

In fact, Craigen goes further. In his chairman's forward to this year's awards book, he says that, sitting through the entries, he was struck by "how boring some of it was". He sounds surprised. Watch an average night's telly and you can count the number of great commercials on one finger. Which is why, of course, the great ones deserve all the glory they get.

Anyway, as Craigen puts it: "Advertisers and their agencies arrogantly assume people actually want to watch their commercials rather than commanding their attention and holding it." Which is not an obvious segue into Procter & Gamble (when was the last time a P&G ad held your attention?), but does resonate with Jim Stengel's proclamation at last week's 4As conference in the US.

Stengel, P&G's global marketing chief, reckons it's not about telling and selling anymore. Advertising (and in 2007 we must use that word broadly) is about relationships. It's about leveraging the mighty power of the internet to forge two-way dialogues with consumers and embed yourselves in their lives as a trusted resource.

It's a few years since Stengel got the ad industry scurrying by declaring the old marketing model is dead. Now he's come up with a way to plug the void. "If we're going to make one big bet on our future, right here, right now, I say the smart money is on building relationships." Cue more scurrying.

And cue more PR for P&G and "visionary" brownie points for Mr Stengel. Stengel reckons his eyes have been opened to the very real possibility that traditional media will become completely irrelevant to some advertisers. Meanwhile, P&G continues to be the world's biggest spender on traditional media, generally outspending rivals by up to two-to-one. Irrelevance is clearly some way off.

But back to BTAA. The more TV ads fail to engage, the more the medium itself becomes devalued as an advertising vehicle. And the more we'll see the main deliverer of mass audiences, ITV, hitting crisis points like this week's 19 per cent slump in profits.

Of course, traditional media themselves have to meet the challenge by creating compulsive content (and as ITV's Michael Grade admits, our biggest broadcaster has failed its advertisers and its viewers by lacking creative ambition and innovation).

But advertisers are complicit in this sort of decline. And I'm not talking about the whole CRR issue (which is another thorny debate altogether). I'm talking about Craigen's comments on how boring so many ads actually are. That's hardly going to help the broadcasters hold their audiences and drive viewing levels.

Stengel might ultimately be right, but we're way off a time when great television delivering mass audiences no longer matters to advertisers. In the meantime, we should be in no doubt that all elements of the mix - media owners, advertisers, agencies - need to collectively take responsibility for the media environment.

Congratulations to Mother, to Gorgeous, to Fallon and to all the other BTAA winners for doing their bit.