It was only a year or two ago when TV advertising was on its way out, or at least down. DVRs, the web and new distractions such as Facebook were going to make old- fashioned advertising less relevant.
Well guess what? It’s just the opposite. As media gets more and more fragmented, TV remains the only truly scalable option. Want broad reach quickly? TV advertising is the way to go and the numbers are proving it. Spending is up, Super Bowl spots are selling earlier than ever, and more and more big brands are increasing their commitments.
While none of that is surprising, what’s worth noting is this. It might be the likes of Twitter that’s getting more people to tune into live TV instead of watching it later on-demand.
It wasn’t much of a revelation in January when Nielson and Yahoo let us know that 86% of U.S. mobile Internet users watch TV with their devices in hand. But when you consider that 40 percent say they’re using their devices for social networking, or take note of the fact that the Super Bowl inspired upwards of 4000 tweets per second during parts of the game, it becomes apparent that instead of steering people away from TV, social media — the desire to weigh in, converse, and see what your community has to say — is helping resurrect it.
Fast Company may have been right when they suggested that Twitter could be TV’s killer app, cross pollinating the stream with live programming to create a truly interactive experience.
So what does this mean for advertisers? Did things just get easier? Can we all go back to buying 30-second TV spots?
Not so fast. The fact that everyone’s on a device while they’re watching a program makes it less likely they’re paying attention to ads, unless, of course, those ads are equally engaging and encouraging conversation as well. The web, instant access to information, and a reliance on search might free marketers from producing boring, fact dominated messages, but even the most creative executions probably need a way to engage consumers, from something as simple as a hashtag, to a concept that is, ideally, more immersive.
While predicting anything these days is a pretty futile exercise — it was only eight years ago when Mel Karmizan assured us that Google would fail because it was fucking with the magic, referring to the relationships that dominated how advertising was bought and sold — here’s what I think we can expect.
Brands will create more complex forms of advertising
If we’re all to engage and talk about the advertising, it can’t be boring or limited to outbound messages. We need more interactive, conversation-inspiring ideas that invite our participation. Think Frank Rose’s The Art of Immersion. More and more ads will include hashtags, start conversations and seek true consumer involvement, extending the story beyond the thirty-second spot.
Integrated agencies will have an advantage
We’ve seen the trend toward specialized media, digital and social media agencies reach its zenith. It’s pretty hard to get all of these disciplines to work seamlessly together inside one company, never mind across multiple agencies. Granted there are exceptions, but agencies that unite creative, media (paid, earned, owned) and digital will prevail.
Marketers will have to master true engagement
Most marketers continue to enter social media as if it’s a cheap place to stick messages, whether on Facebook or Twitter. Why else is Facebook (and soon Twitter) making such an effort to educate brands on what to do after they’ve acquired all those like clicks? Even Old Spice forgot that about it’s million followers after so brilliantly attracting them all. If advertisers expect social media to generate interest in their TV spots, they’ll need to get better at adding value to the conversation. Hint: discounts won’t be enough to build real loyalty.
Earned and paid media will need to work more seamlessly
This will be a tough one for agencies (and brands) that don’t have social oriented PR divisions made up of people who know how to listen, engage and interact in real time, focusing less on cleverness and more on support, responsiveness and interaction. The trick will be how to combine the Facebook and Twitter paid efforts with genuine conversation that keeps people coming back and paying attention. Those that get it will retain more followers and convert them to advocates.
Twitter will finally go mainstream
Every media property, blog and website by now has a link to Twitter with the annoying request “follow us on Twitter.” The words alone suggest that the consumer wants to show up for no other reason than to receive updates or messages. But as more and more TV shows and advertisers invite participation and opinion via the micro-blogging platform, they’ll do as much to drive the familiarity with Twitter as Twitter does to keep live TV going.
It’s ironic that advertising, which resisted getting digital and social while enduring the criticism of its increasing irrelevance by those newer media platforms, should now be back in driver’s seat. Certainly keeps things interesting.