Last year, legendary adman John Hegarty offered a British reporter a compelling guide for making TV ads resonate in today’s media world: “Super Bowl to super-social.” Use TV as the platform to widely distribute a spectacular spot and watch commentary (hopefully positive) cascade through Twitter, while YouTube views keep climbing.
At least for now, that strategy seems to comprise much of TV’s future. Of course, easier said than done since social media reaction can be wildly unpredictable. But Samsung’s recent efforts mocking the excitement over the new iPhone seem to have delivered on the playbook.
“In this day and age with all this technological disruption, a well-crafted television commercial, a well-crafted message, still has the ability to break through and actually has more ability to break through,” said Eric Hirshberg, the former chief at Deutsch, while referencing Samsung’s good fortune.
Hirshberg, now in a top role at Activision trying to sell the “Call of Duty” game series, recalled how during a couple of decades in advertising reports about the end of TV advertising seemingly never stopped. The VCR, cable, the Internet and DVRs were all supposed to wage successful warcraft against the major broadcast networks.
Didn’t happen. “It’s a remarkably resilient medium,” he said.
It shouldn't be overlooked, though, that TV has received a nice gift with social media and all the opportunities that offers to give TV creative long legs.
There was plenty of the usual talk about social media and consumer empowerment having transformative roles at MediaPost’s annual Future of Media event on Wednesday, where Hirshberg joined six other top industry executives on a panel. But while there was some talk about the TV business being a bit flimsier, there wasn’t much to discourage anyone laboring in it.
“The reason it works is because it scales and it scales very quickly,” said Nigel Morris, an Aegis CEO. He said clients from Home Depot to General Motors constantly want that wide, fast reach. And TV can offer a strong trunk to support all kinds of efforts to extend reach branches in social media and elsewhere.
MDC Partners CEO Miles Nadal said the press warms to the narrative of TV’s imminent downfall brought on by an unstoppable technology with behavior-altering force. Yet, that may just keep going and going as the business keeps growing and growing.
“The media wants to hear that there’s some transformational thing (and ask) when will the 30-second TV commercial die?” he said.
“I think there’s almost an addiction editorially to thinking about revolution, to thinking about the thing that’s going to render obsolete everything that came before it … and that rarely ever happens,” Hirshberg said.
Some of the discussion about a lack of R&D funds in the ad business led to a point where Weather Channel chief David Kenny said investments are significant at his network, while cable operators and TV manufacturers and making them, too.
“TV will get more interesting,” he said.
Besides social media, TV may have received another gift with tablets, which allow for second-screen, simultaneous consumption. And, Kenny remarked about the opportunity to “program together” the two screens.
Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington did suggest a Super Bowl might not pull its weight because of consumer “attention deficit disorder,” so a more consistent sponsorship for a long period might be more effective. But, others simply agreed that as long as marketers have plans to pair the expensive ads with social media and other tactics, there would still be plenty of advertisers lining up.
Future-of-media discussions can lead to suggestions that knockout ideation will conquer any new platforms.
“The thing that hasn’t changed and I think is more important than ever is the power of great creative craftsmanship and great disruptive ideas (to go) through those channels,” Hirshberg said.