`Many valid concerns’

With the heaviest part of the fall tv buying season wrapping up, last issue Strategy asked Steve Jones, national director of sales for cbc, to comment on what he would like to see happen in the next few years. Among other...

With the heaviest part of the fall tv buying season wrapping up, last issue Strategy asked Steve Jones, national director of sales for cbc, to comment on what he would like to see happen in the next few years. Among other things, Jones said tv needs better numbers and less control of the medium by research-oriented ad agencies which have lost their creativity. His article elicited the following response.

I was fascinated to read the television seller’s perspective of the medium’s future.

Clearly, Steve Jones and his colleagues at cbc have some serious concerns and problems with their media buying clients, many valid, I think.

I’m not sure whether going direct is really an answer though. I mean, where does it lead? Next the board, the shareholders?

It is not really a serious formula for the professional exchange of a complex product. Although I must say many of us thought the idea of paying commissions just to visit the client, but not sell, a dandy concept. We obviously cannot be that bad if you have got to pay ‘em to not visit the agency.

I think the more serious issue of tv’s future is really where we, collectively, as an industry, should pause and regroup.

In a 300- or 400- or 500-channel universe, information will clearly be the valuable currency in that kind of highly segmented marketplace, and we can only pay for it if we work together. Right now, that’s not happening.

The two services are battling, and advertisers are trying to run right up the middle. No wonder sellers are frustrated trying to use more sophisticated information that is, unfortunately, not accepted as common ground.

Until we have that depth of information and can agree on how we are going to apply it, frustrations will mount. And believe me, no product manager wants to be, or is equipped to be, the savior in the meantime.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at how some of us in the buying community view the future of television.

If the siren call for real estate is location, for tv, the song will be ‘target.’

Let’s face it, any advertising seen by people who are not current or potential customers is wasted advertising.

Unfortunately, in the media economics of today, buying a lot of waste along with targetted exposure is generally cheaper, or the only choice. Not so in the future.

As choice proliferates and programming revolves around selectivity and more precise target marketing, the need for pre- and post-planning research can only grow.

Integration of multiple databases will also increase, as will the interface between client and media databases. This will result in more accurate audience measurement.

More than grps, in a nutshell. Targetted research will be the basis as selective programming and choice proliferate.

Even traditional mass market advertisers realize this phenomenon: John Costello, senior vice-president marketing at Sears U.S. recently said in Mediaweek, ‘The days of the mass market are over.’

Conventional tv may not be as severely hurt by the 300-channel universe as might be expected at first blush. This is primarily because the highly specific nature of this new programming will be viewed selectively, via pay-per-view, for instance.

In fact, as the number of media options multiplies, media that can deliver a large audience attracting several demographic groups will be in demand.

In the final analysis, however, expect continued share erosion of conventional off-air TV.

Bruce Claassen is president and chief executive officer of Genesis Media.