Dear Digital Evangelists, TV Is Far From Dead

It's easy to get carried away by digital. Today's headlines about television penetration falling in the UK for the first time in addition to predictions that globally television has peaked are well-suited to a dire forewarning to all television executives that their medium is on the way out and digital is taking over.

However, if you care to read beyond the headlines, the latest report from ZenithOptimedia predicts that television had indeed peaked from a shade under 40% of global ad spend this year to around 37.5% next year. Now, just ask yourself how you'd feel about the channel you're most closely associated with declining from a 40% to a 37.5% share. Chances are, you'd probably take that.

The really interesting part is that the same figures looked at online video's global share. The medium that it seems only right is going to eat chunks out of TV budget is set to double next year compared to this. Even so, it will account for 2.8% of global ad spend. In short, holding a wake for television or even talking about its demise at the hands of online video would seem pretty premature. It's very trendy to talk about television teetering on the edge of a cliff with online video poised just behind ready to push it over. Throw in programmatic buying -- the kind 4OD will launch next year when it relaunches as All4 -- and you've not only got more ad tech that television can't keep up with, you can also refer to millennials on smartphones and tablets catching up with television at a time that suits them.

Thing is, you just have to go back to the figures and conventional television's share of the global advertising pot will still be nearly fourteen times larger next year. Sure, budget is going to move toward online video, but it's not an overnight revolution.

The fact that television might just be a whole lot stronger than digital evangelists would like to concede hit me the other day when talking to a start-up that is looking to topple Gumtree from its clear number one position in UK classifieds. TheGoodDeal's owners are very savvy about using digital to get their name online and attract adverts to the site, but the one thing they don't have is a brand name people know and check out when they're looking for items. That, of course, is exactly what eBay-owned Gumtree does have.

So how are they going to counter that? Which digital channel are they going to go all-in on to take the fight to Gumtree? Well, actually, their channel is going to be television. In addition to advertising next year, they're going to be working hard on securing sponsorship of a DIY or home-buying show to make sure millions of people are exposed to their brand name. 

How is Gumtree going to react, you might well ask, as I did at the time, only to be told an announcement was imminent. When it came a couple of days ago, it was a great move, but still a little surprising. The site whose traffic is at least four to five times higher than its nearest rivals is also looking to television. It's sponsoring Celebrity Big Brother in January both with traditional television idents as well as branding around clips on Channel 5's catch-up service. There are some nice additional touches, such as items for the house being bought on Gumtree and then, after the show, sold back to the public on the site too. The main point, though, is that the medium is television.

So I have to admit I am as guilty as the next digital marketing writer for sometimes forgetting that in the middle of all the exciting developments we have to talk about, the biggest channel of them all is the one we grew up with -- television. 

2 comments about "Dear Digital Evangelists, TV Is Far From Dead".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, December 9, 2014 at 3:21 p.m.

    Your article perfectly describe what technology does to an industry, get more for less $$$ and it perfectly describes what the TV industry has adeptly done the past two decades, to sell less audience for even greater $$$. The cost of the incremental reach is very expensive.

    Particularly how the younger generations are consuming video which are not growing up with traditional television,the fundamental question stands: is the flat to downward growth cyclical or secular?

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 9, 2014 at 6:48 p.m.

    Yes, TV is selling fewer viewers per announcement for more dollars, but we should remember that digital is selling "ad
    impressions" that no user can see. In the case of TV, advertisers keep paying higher CPMs based on people who have a reasonable chance to see their commercials----not for a single second, but in their entirety. Sure, some people tune out mentally or go running to the bathroom or turn to their PCs when commercials air, but the evidence indicates that many of them do, indeed, watch the commercials. What kind of evidence? Most advertisers utilize commercial recall studies and campaign awareness studies to determine if their messages are getting across. If nobody watched commercials---as some claim--- these would show that nobody remembers the ads---but that's not what the research tells us. As for the cost efficiency aspect, when actual chance-to-see factors are applied to digital, TV wins hands down in average CPMs. It's not even close. It's about time that digital advocates stopped bashing TV and start putting their own house in order.

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