Television is healthier than ever, just a little paranoid

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Photo Credit: Science Museum, London

Why does everyone feel so compelled to come to the defense of television?  From blog posts to editorial columns it appears that the old guard is jealous (at best) and petrified (at worst) of all the attention the new stuff is getting.

In a recent MediaWeek column, Chris Rohrs, the president of the Television Bureau of Advertising took advantage of another “dead” medium – in this case a magazine – to come to the defense of the industry that pays his salary by reminding us that Nielson just reported that TV viewing is higher than it’s ever been.

Mr. Rohrs even made sure to rub it in (just in case an social media enthusiasts were reading) relating in no uncertain terms that the American male watches on average four hours and 49 minutes of TV a day.  Of course I’m not sure reaching someone who watches nearly five hours of TV a day has any value to an advertiser other than beer brands and Lazyboy, but that’s another story.

But it gets even better,  because guess what?  The advertising on TV works.  Really it does.  According to a just released Yankelovich report, those :30 interruptions elevate awareness, interest, purchase consideration, not to mention store and website traffic.

Personally I have no doubt that TV and TV advertising are here to stay.  What other medium allows us massive reach in no time?   What other technology allows us to imbue a brand with as much emotional power?  What other screen lets us disguise a sales pitch as entertainment and stick it right in the middle of your favorite live sporting event?  TV will always have its place in the media mix.

But when I see all the TV advocates waving their research reports, crying “See, look at this, TV’s not dead,” I actually start to wonder.  If it weren’t diminishing in influence would everyone have to work so hard to convince us otherwise?  What do you think?  Does all of this posturing sound overly defensive to you?  Will TV as we know it continue to dominate?  Do you believe the numbers?

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9 comments
edward boches
edward boches

Joe:
Great comment. Agree totally. I'm a huge believer in embracing change (in fact we've made that a big part of Mullen's culture. I'm stunned how many companies resist. I heard a great quote yesterday from a client, Ron Shaich, the CEO at Panera. He said "Most companies only like to do what they're good at and they won't try anything they're not good at." It's just another way of saying too many marketers or media get stuck doing the same thing over and over. That's just a formula for obsolescence or irrelevance.

Joe Jacobi
Joe Jacobi

Thanks for an interesting post and equally interesting comments. From my short time working in television so far, one of the interesting elements I've observed is how multi-generational the industry is. We tend to think of television as this exciting, fast-changing medium. But there are lots of older executives, station owners, attorneys that did really well in televison years ago and have been resistant to change. I see the effect of that comes out in their programming, especially local news, and the product is not good.

Jonathan asks a good question about the allocation of ad/marketing dollars. Where I live, I don't think local television is suffering from an economy problem. I think it suffers from a "resistance to change" problem. Right now, if I oversaw a local ad/marketing campaign and budget, I'd be looking at just about every other medium until I see local television making an effort to live in the community that I'm living in. For now, it seems a world apart.

Joe Jacobi’s last blog post..Do Performance Cuts Really Help Us Perform?

edward boches
edward boches

Jonathan,
All good points. I think the trick is figuring out the balance among and between everything. There is probably a perfect balance of broad reach and awareness, trackable digital, and the power of deepening a relationship with fans and followers who might become advocates on your behalf. Not sure anyone knows that exact formula, but you may want a really good analytics person on your team. In the meantime, we can continue to assume that each medium will try as hard as possible to sell its virtues while attemting to question the value of the alternatives.

Jonathan Fields
Jonathan Fields

Agreed, TV's not going Chapter 7 quite yet. But, the bigger question is, if you've got $X million to spend, is TV still the RIGHT place to put it with so many more options?

Will you get better "awareness, interest, purchase consideration, not to mention store and website traffic" elsewhere AND have a far more trackable response rate and ROI data if you allocate your spend differently.

So, it's not whether it still works, but whether it still works well enough compared to the latest shiny objects in town?

PS - Mark Twain said it best, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and Rohrs' statistics."

Jonathan Fields’s last blog post..Career Renegade TV: Jason Lamberth Goes Natural

edward boches
edward boches

I actually think there's pretty good TV these days, MadMen, Brotherhood, Damages, Dexter, In Treatment. But none of them run ads or don't require you to watch them. Means you better make damn good ads that people seek out, or get your brand into all the other places it can connect with consumers.

Jim @smashadv
Jim @smashadv

Edward – well stated! When you first reported this news on Tuesday, I responded with the fact I watch less TV now than I ever have and how could this be? Then I thought about how Nielson serves only the medium (not necessarily advertisers, and certainly not consumers) and how antiquated the Nielson credibility really is. I agree, TV advertising is never going to go away because of the reasons you state here. But as long as networks keep pumping out trash (mostly), I'll continue to only watch sports programming (the original reality television).

Jim @smashadv’s last blog post..The Life and Death of the Big Idea

edward boches
edward boches

For one thing, some of the stats probably only measure the TV being turned on rather than actively watched. Second, we are in the midst of a recession with high unemployment (folks have time on there hands); additionally there are probably people who've cut back on entertainment in other forms (movies, theatre, dinner out, etc. TV is the beneficiary of the current economy. That being said, there's no doubt that TV will always play a big role in live sporting events and other high impact programming; but as a medium chances are it will lose share to newer media. In addition, as more and more people will their TV content from laptops and a smart phones, TV will have to withstand even more competition. The mother of all mediums won't go away, but it will play a less dominant role in the future.

Eric Peterson
Eric Peterson

Wow. Assuming 7 hours of sleep and 9 hours of work added to 5 hours of TV watching, there's a whole lot of life that the average American is cramming into the remaining 3 hours of the day.

Edward, I'm most curious as to how the television medium will evolve. Surely there must be a natural convergence on the horizon between the PC and the television. Given the audience emancipation that such a platform will provide, there's your ample reason for the defensive posturing of the TV industry.

Stuart Foster
Stuart Foster

TV is not dead. It just has to get smarter. You have to really do something cool and unique to get noticed (while being extremely on-target with your messaging/branding).

You also may need to make variations of said commercial for a variety of different networks/platforms. The mash-up is probably the best example of how to utilize this. Play user generated content as your commercial. It would be a lot of fun...and get you huge buzz.

Stuart Foster’s last blog post..Social Media is to PR as Dalton is to “Roadhouse”