So let me be straight -- Thinkbox and I have a history. The group that is there to fight the corner for the television advertising industry doesn't like to be told the obvious. Hence it came to pass
that an article I wrote in a national half a dozen years ago, which said the youth are more switched on to the likes of YouTube, led to heated calls and a softening of the tone of the article online.
Thinkbox had a point back there and then, but at the same time they missed the overall disruptive wave that was looming large in front of them.
Any organisation that fails to see that
digital changes everything will often point to figures and stats that show they are doing great, just as I'm sure King Canute probably felt for a stage that the tide was a little way off coming in.
So we have the latest figures from Thinkbox saying ROI for a pound spent on television advertising has risen by around 9 pence. It's obviously a lot better than a drop, but barely means ROI
has improved by half a single percentage point in the past three years. Compare that to any figure for digital and you'll get a stark contrast. If Facebook were to stand up and say we've improved ROI
by half a percentage point since floating, they'd probably be laughed off the investor's conference call.
The truly interesting part is that the rise in television's ROI is being put down
to second-screeners. Those of us watching "The X-Factor" with a tablet or smartphone at the ready are the ones responsible for Web site traffic and hashtag use rocketing when audiences are given a
call to action, such as getting a cheaper home insurance quote. Ironic, isn't it, that the ultimate brand-building tool is now being propped up by the direct-response mechanism of appealing to the
There is a real sting in the tail here. To reach second-screeners, you don't necessarily have to advertise, although it obviously helps. If you are smart and can operate in
real-time, savvy advertising and marketing executives can jump in on conversations about shows and pick up on trends without ever committing to advertising. Brands looking for popular appeal can join
in conversations around "The Voice" and so on during, throughout and after the show while more highbrow audiences could be reached as a compelling drama starts and then just as it finishes (don't
interrupt as the plot unfolds).
So of course television is not dead. It has huge appeal, particularly in a country where we're all glued to popular shows. In addition, the ability for SMEs
to run local campaigns on a channel like Sky's AdSmart is a serious boost for the industry.
But the glory days are over. They really are. There will still be good money paid for "X-Factor"
adverts featuring beautiful, high-production-value adverts from household name brands. But budget is only going to go one way, and that is always going to be toward digital. A major theme among huge
FMCG brands at the recent Adobe Summit this week in London was how expensive television still is, despite channel fragmentation and the allure of digital. The general feeling was that by moving to
real-time marketing and advertising inevitably means moving to digital, particularly when several countries are brought under one roof. The data is better, response times are quicker and the budget
stretches a whole lot further.
So flagging up the second-screen appeal make sense but channels need to be aware that they are as much of a risk as they are a saviour. Direct response will
be initiated -- of course it will -- but marketing and advertising is moving to real-time, 24/7 and smart executives are figuring out a way to join in conversations they didn't have to pay to start.