Is traditional TV advertising still good value for money?

Given the rise of new digital channels, do brands investing in linear TV still get bang for their buck, Alasdair Reid asks.

Every year, around this time, when Thinkbox releases its commercial television viewing report, there’s an almost audible sigh in some quarters of the media industry. Or worse – there are those unashamedly willing to herald it as "bad news".

And that’s because the report tends to be filled with evidence that broadcast TV’s version of the apocalypse has been rescheduled. Again.

The medium proves stubbornly unwilling to conform to glib social theory. The time-shifted TV meltdown, predicted as a consummating act of the dotcom boom, didn’t take place (not significantly, at any rate); the Clay Shirky-style internet TV revolution also failed to materialise in the years that followed; and the mobile TV reckoning, heralded from countless conference platforms from 2007 onwards, has also declined to manifest itself, despite the arrival of the requisite hardware.

For some ideologues, this is a matter of profound irritation. For the rest of us, what we are faced with is a continuing success story. We watch a lot of commercial telly in this country and we’re watching slightly more each year. And we like watching it in conventional ways. Thinkbox figures for 2012 show that, on average, we viewed just over four hours of programming on our TV sets each day. Compare that to the three minutes we consumed via other devices, both fixed-line and mobile.

TV is the most emotive communications channel ever invented; and linear TV is peerless as a social medium – social in that we consume it in the sitting room among those whose air we share.

The truth (one that dare not speak its name in App World) is that this is all terrific news for advertisers, the advertising industry, the media landscape generally – and, it thus follows, the wider economy.

And yet the storm clouds continue to gather. Even though audience figures are good, broadcasters are subject to increasing economic pressures – as witnessed, say, by Group M’s recent skirmish with Channel 4. The drive is on to get broadcast quality at internet prices.

So, yes, the Thinkbox figures are nice. But the reality may be that the ad industry is continuing to question whether it’s getting value for its TV money these days.


YES Mike Colling, managing director, Mike Colling & Company

"All the TV we buy creates profitable incremental growth for clients. It does that either within a short-term or longer-term model. Linear TV is still the only way to deliver high reach using audio and video, and with viewer engagement."

YES Andrew Stephens, founding partner, Goodstuff Communications

"Linear TV is back and better than ever. And it’s not just brand popularity or social augmentation that live TV can deliver – we are finding direct digital clients getting good returns [via viewers using mobile devices as a ‘second screen’]."

YES Ruth Cartwright, broadcast director, Maxus

"TV will always be watched – the only change is over what platform and when. It is the role of agencies to ensure they deliver value across all platforms. Linear TV will remain good value while we have strong content and viewers watching it."

YES John Davidson, head of trading, Starcom MediaVest Group

"Linear TV remains potent and represents exceptional value… and second-screen engagement will further support [the medium]. In addition, emerging ad solutions such as Sky AdSmart will bring addressable targeting options."