As delegates nurse their first hangovers of this week’s TV
conference in Barcelona, those who have made it into the lecture theatre
will face a familiar range of topics from the platform; digital TV,
interactivity, the internet and fragmentation. We’ve been talking about
the future for years but now it’s here (sort of), the debate hasn’t
really moved on.
And the creative issues facing advertisers in this new TV environment
will hardly get an airing. Take last week’s headlines created by that
loveable rogue Tony Scouller, the marketing director of UDV, with the
help of that other loveable rogue, John Billett, the chairman of Billett
Scouller was presenting the Billett Paper (which, in the spirit of
Billett himself, managed to sound like a political manifesto of global
significance) on three years of spirits ads on TV. His verdict was that
the drinks industry has been badly served by ITV. Phew. Well done ITV -
if everything had been rosy, an opportunity for a healthy dose of PR
would have been missed.
Scouller’s point was that ITV’s contribution to the arrival of spirits
advertising was to reduce young people’s viewing of ITV and push the
cost of TV advertising up by 24 per cent. Thrilled by the prospect of
getting themselves on TV, the spirits advertisers clamoured for airtime
and the price went up. Call me naive, but was there any hope that the
ITV sales houses would be so happy to have spirits advertisers on board
that they’d give them a sweet deal?
Is ITV the obvious port of call for advertisers chasing young
I suspect a core problem with taking spirits advertising on to TV was
not the cost or the audience (there’s more to TV advertising than ITV)
but the quality of many of the advertising campaigns produced.
Far too many spirits advertisers simply took cinema strategies - or even
print strategies - on to TV and expected them to work. A great deal more
thought will be required as TV itself changes. As we sit around in
Barcelona, I wonder how many will care to debate the nature of creating
TV ads in the new TV world.
The creative implications of the emerging TV advertising opportunities
are enormous. Digital television, interactive advertising and the
increasing proliferation of niche channels represent new creative
opportunities and challenges, yet few creative agencies are really up to
speed with the rapid changes in the TV market.
Now, more than ever, there’s a real need for creative and media agencies
to work in tandem to make the most of the possibilities of the new TV
era. Yet the two sides of the advertising equation are further apart
than ever and that represents a real problem for creative agencies still
obsessed with mass-market 30-second TV campaigns. Will many of those
creative agencies which cheerfully waved goodbye to their media
departments in the early 90s bother to send delegates along to
Barcelona? I suspect not.