Is TV worth the money?

Sherland Forde is president of Toronto-based MediaVest Worldwide....

Sherland Forde is president of Toronto-based MediaVest Worldwide.

Accountability is one of our industry’s most pressing topics today – a buzzword that crops up frequently in the far-reaching pay-for-performance debate. And it is an issue with profound implications for the future of television as an advertising medium.

Accountability and the new marketer

At the heart of the accountability issue are the realities facing the new breed of marketer.

Already competitive by nature, today’s marketers are further driven by a whole host of new pressures: globalism, consolidation, economies of scale and revolutionary leaps in technology and communications. Integration means that the days of one target/one map are gone. Whole new combinations of tools and tactics have raised the performance standards by which everyone is measured.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the new marketer’s attitude toward the brand and its value and utility. Despite the industry’s general renewal of faith in branding, and the rise of the newly developed science of brand valuation, today’s marketer frequently displays a curious ambivalence toward the venerable brand. Too often, short-term promotions pass for brand-building communications. Shareholder sentiment and stock value are sometimes treated as more urgent issues than brand equity.

The new marketer has an ever-expanding array of tools from which to choose. With the stakes rising, and corporate interests dictating that choices be made on the basis of proven, predictable performance, many ask whether television is worth the investment.

Does television pay out?

Countless case studies have pointed toward the effectiveness of television – and ongoing advertiser commitment of billions of dollars serves to further reinforce this faith in the medium. But does television really provide an accountable, guaranteeable pathway?

Even after 50 years (and who knows how many trillions of dollars) we still lack a scientific formula linking television advertising with successful brand development. The best that media professionals have been able to do is to provide statistical dots, which visionary clients have then connected to form their own conclusions. And since that’s all we’re ever likely to be able to do, it’s imperative that we find better dots.

How? Well for starters, there are some questions we should be asking.

Key questions for agencies and media specialists

Do you care enough to send your very best? The value of the medium cannot exceed the quality of the people making decisions about its use. Are you really sending your best people to help clients make tough media decisions? Some suggest that agencies are, in fact, not doing all they can to connect with clients at the most senior levels.

Are you asking hard questions of the medium? As an industry, we’ve put a lot of effort over the years into arm-twisting for better rates. But have we expended the same kind of energy ensuring that the qualitative goals of advertisers were being met? It’s time now to address this issue, with or without the input of TV’s handlers.

Are you developing new and more relevant media models? Television remains the medium of choice for mass marketers looking to build a brand quickly. In the future, however, that choice will be neither automatic nor single-minded, thanks to the emergence of effective new media and the evolution of proven integration models.

Has media been involved in the creative development process? U.S. research indicates that no more than a third of all ad campaigns – in TV or otherwise – have any impact whatever. Even fewer impart any lasting value. This can’t just be a matter of the right message in the wrong medium. In addition to helping resolve strategic issues, media professionals must be called upon for their critical insight into the actual messages themselves.

Are you tough enough with clients on measurement criteria? Advertisers will continue to look for impressive cost-per-response figures, while at the same time fostering brand-building as a core corporate goal. The two are not mutually exclusive. It is, however, vital that all parties agree on the precise nature of the desired response.

Key questions for broadcasters

When did you last seriously question your research methods? In the newspaper industry, there is a growing call for publishers to rethink the applicability of terms like "read" and "read yesterday" as descriptors of audience value. Similarly the television industry must revisit the terms and tools traditionally used to quantify and qualify the viewing audience. Retiring the whole concept of ratings would be a good start. More broadly based people metering would also be welcome. And terms such as GRP, CPM, "viewer," "watcher" and "surfer" should – at the very least – be rescaled.

How accurate are the numbers, really? The television industry has done little to enrich our understanding of audiences and the real cost of reaching them. But advertisers and their media specialists, increasingly suspicious of value received, will not be denied the hard, empirical evidence they need to plan responsibly. Much better, then, for the industry to produce the kind of reliable, insightful data that enables advertisers to plan and buy television – and to defend their decisions.

How much time do you spend growing your knowledge base? Within five years of graduating, most engineers and physicians would be largely obsolete, were it not for ongoing research and development efforts in those fields. TV needs to take a page from their book. Over the past 30 years, the industry has done a terrible job of maintaining leading-edge knowledge bases. That may be one of the reasons why advertising has been pushed so far down the agenda of many corporations. By taking more of a leadership role in gathering and disseminating fresh insights into television advertising, the industry can give itself an enormous boost, on both the credibility and value scales.

Also in this report:

- Shorter formats a double-edged sword: By opting for spots of 15 seconds or less, advertisers can stretch their advertising dollar — but they may also be contributing to the problem of clutter p.TV1

- CCM arouses interest with sperm spot p.TV4

- Painting the smaller canvas: How creatives make their mark in 15 seconds or less p.TV4

- Red Rose resurrects brand with funeral spot: Retires ‘Only in Canada…’ tagline in favour of ‘A cup’ll do you good’ p.TV6

- Ford Focus puts the squeeze on credits: Sponsored previews of top-rated shows in bid to give campaign added impact p.TV8

- Jetta campaign a brand-new love story: Automaker bids farewell to popular Phil and Loulou characters p.TV10

- BTV blurs line between editorial, advertorial: Companies featured on business show pay about $10,000 for repackaged material p.TV13

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group