Ad Industry Can't Decide Whether or Not TV is Dead

Almost ten years ago, Joe Jaffe wrote a book entitled: "Life After the 30-Second Spot." As the title suggests, it was all about the demise of traditional media, specifically the :30 TV ad. In 2012, Brian Wieser, writing in TVNewsCheck, called reports of TV's death "greatly exaggerated" arguing against Henry Blodget who had just penned a Business Insider article about how the TV business is collapsing.  And at this week's ADMA Creative Fuel Conference, R\GA Founder Bob Greenberg is predicting the death of the metaphorical 30-second ad. So which is it? TV is dead? TV is here to stay? Can we make up our minds? If continuously rising Super Bowl prices are any indicator, TV as an ad medium is doing just fine. If you compare today's average prime time rating with those of just ten years ago, you begin to see a more dire picture. But it's not really all that dire. Yes, the effectiveness of TV advertising is declining but, at the same time, consumption of TV-like content is on a continuous upswing. It would seem to me the only thing that's changing is the words we use to describe what ad agencies do: place compelling content in front of the people most likely to be swayed by it. If we look at it that way, nothing's dying. It's just changing.

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Well we've heard it all before. Digital! Digital! Digital! All in with digital! So what's the new head of digital at Ogilvy New York, Lou Aversano, going to do to make his mark? He's not just going all in with digital. He's going to "aggressively invest in digital." Aggressively, I say! Anyway, what's more interesting is how Aversano got his start in the business. He tells AdWeek. "I was a Boston University finance major, and in my junior year I had to make up a class, so I took AdLab (a student-run ad agency) for the hell of it. The professor happened to be Walter Lubars, father of BBDO chief creative officer David Lubars. It’s a great program and I took it again senior year for no credit. I graduated and got a job at Bear Stearns. My first week there I thought, 'I’m 21 years old and I don’t want to live the rest of my life thinking woulda, coulda, shoulda.' So I quit my job without telling my father and interviewed at Chiat/Day New York. I didn’t get hired but got a job at N.W. Ayer as a secretary."

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The American Marketing Association has a new CEO; Russ Klein. Klein comes to the AMA from Arby's where he was chief marketing officer. Prior to that, he served as CMO for Burger King, 7-Eleven, and Dr Pepper/7Up companies. Of his focus upon taking on the new role, Klein said, “Disruption is the new normal in marketing. The AMA has long been a trusted source of insights for the marketing world and I consider it a real privilege to guide the organization into the frontiers that lie ahead. The AMA will continue to be a torchbearer in lighting up the pathways of change not only in the future state of marketing but commerce in general.”

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It's really no joke. One day, all media buying will be a done via programatic buying with nary a bit of involvement from human beings. And unlike the stock market -- also very automated -- which makes trades that actually matter as opposed to programmatic buys where if a mistake is made an ad simply doesn't appear, constant human supervision becomes irrelevant. Because in advertising, we just have the make good. In the stock market, consequences are a bit more dire. All of which is to say, it's no surprise agency after agency, much like Havas SA which just struck a programmatic deal with AOL, are automating as much as they can automate. Because, really, buying media is boring. And agencies hate boring. Winning a Cannes Lion on the other hand. Now that's where the excitement's at!
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4 comments about "Ad Industry Can't Decide Whether or Not TV is Dead".
  1. Leonard Zachary from EquityStep , July 29, 2014 at 9:38 a.m.
    Richard, TV is certainly not dead with all the digital OTT streaming on that smart TV screen. The TV dying you refer is the bundled TV and retransmission/cable carriage rights business model- that will not hold with the 20-30 year olds. Good luck selling bundled TV in the not too distant future to the upcoming generation now 5 to 15 years old. The folks who rely on centralized government laws to protect their business model in a free market and very competitive digital world that is converging onto to the TV screen, are living on borrowed time.
  2. Robert Barrows from R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations , July 29, 2014 at 11:25 a.m.
    If TV continues being mostly reality TV, no one will care.
  3. Doug Garnett from Atomic Direct , July 29, 2014 at 4:48 p.m.
    What's funny is that the statistics clearly show TV isn't dying nor is there any significant erosion. What IS happening is the ad people who desperately wish TV would die have become transcendent. Why do they want it dead? I think it's a combination of self-loathing (too many advertising people hate the idea that profitable client effectiveness is important) and a desperate search for their own unique story about why they're so cool. (And if digital media offer anything it's an infinite ability to take the same old thing and claim to clients you're doing something really break through and new. Sadly, there are a few too many clients who buy these pitches.)
  4. John Grono from GAP Research , July 29, 2014 at 5:15 p.m.
    The seers of the 'Death of TV' will be long gone before television is.