When someone is asked what their favourite ad is they will almost certainly refer to a TV spot. TV is an advertising medium that can leave a long-lasting impression on a person and is proven to be one of the most reliable channels for driving trust and brand love. Not only this, but it talks to a huge proportion of a brand’s audience and to-this-day remains a central part of big brand campaigns. It is also a platform on which an agency’s creativity can be showcased on a large and influential scale.
But are marketers falling out of love with TV? According to Kantar’s Media Reactions 2023 report, TV is no longer a ‘preferred’ ad channel for marketers, with the media channel plummeting from third to twelfth on the list of preferred channels for marketers. But is this only true for linear TV?
Perhaps marketers no longer wish to appeal to dwindling daytime TV viewers, but beyond the ‘traditional’ TV landscape there also exists a plethora of TV mediums, whether it be free ad-supported TV, VOD (video-on-demand), YouTube or streaming. As Thinkbox’s CEO Lindsey Clay highlighted in her response to the report, the situation is slightly more nuanced than Kantar first let on. “TV is expanding and it’s important to look at the complete picture,” Clay said.
Given that TV was once the creative cornerstone on which integrated advertising was traditionally built, what do creatives make of the assumed decline of TV advertising? If carefully crafted films have lost their value to clients, what does this mean for creative departments? How does creativity still thrive in a non-linear TV advertising world?
We asked a creatives for their thoughts.
David Masterman, deputy executive creative director, VCCP London
‘The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’ As various wits have polished Mark Twain’s original quip.
The TV commercial has had more lives than Rocky, my cat.
For more than twenty years the funeral invites have been sent out and yet somehow there are still some great brands being built there on TV.
The truth has always been that one of the joys of our jobs is to create different shaped work for different shaped campaigns.
When we teach a cow to ride a motorbike, or coerce a goat to ride a glider, TV may well be the right balance of reach and engagement to introduce them to the audience we’re after. So, when they pop up on my phone telling me about a Virgin Media black Friday deal I’m already warmed to them.
When a guy in a South London flat yodels Domin-oh-hoo-hoo off his balcony more than 30 million people hear it. So, when that yodel comes at me on YouTube or TikTok to promote a tasty new pizza, my stomach has already decided what’s for tea.
The onus is on us to bring ideas into the world in a way that is native to the channel.
Anyone sticking a 30” commercial on skippable pre-roll will learn the hard way that they work in rather different ways.
TikTok will tell you, in no uncertain terms, what you can do with your polished TV commercials.
And every billboard poster wrapped with nine different calls to action is a sign that someone really doesn’t know what they’re doing.
We are spoiled now with so many places to talk to our customers. But every medium has its dress code.
I don’t think I’ll press my funeral suit just yet.
Dan Watts, executive creative director, Pablo London
One of the first things we were told coming out of Watford Ad School in 2001 was TV IS DEAD. Just like the doomsday profits with their THE END IS NIGH plaques, it still hasn’t happened two decades later. Everything's changed and nothing's changed.
Does that mean it will never die? Well just like I can't be sure a meteor won't eventually hit the Earth and prove those Doomsday profits finally right, I have no idea. Although I hope it's a while off, as I’ve recently bought a new Samsung.
Ultimately FILM will always be the best way to get across craft, emotion, humour, and persuasive action. To really etch a brand into the brains of consumers. As creatives, we make films and place them where the eyeballs are. That might be TV today, TikTok tomorrow, YouTube or Cinema the day after. If TV as we know it does pop its clogs, it won't change how creatives should approach the power of the moving image. It may be harder to track, but it’s the medium people remember the most (‘what’s your favourite banner ad of all time’ said no one ever).
Michael Jones, creative partner, AMV BBDO
TV is like butter; it goes in and out of favour with such regularity that it’s very hard to keep track.
The simple unwavering strength of TV is that it remains the best way to reach the most people in one go. And whilst the media landscape continues to evolve and offer ever more dynamic and focused channels to talk to very specific demographics, TV still offers the best means to make a grand gesture; to launch, to talk to billions at a Superbowl or make them deliriously sad-happy as they prepare the Christmas turkey. TV, done well, is as fresh and fantastic as it always was. Capable of adding that essential flavour to any important campaign.
Franki Goodwin, chief creative officer, Saatchi & Saatchi
TV advertising is evolving, not dying. A recent Omida report found that FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) channel revenue grew almost 20 times from 2019-2022, and by 2027 will triple to become a $12 billion annual business. As the cost of living forces people to save money, all the big streaming platforms will soon be serving up good old fashioned ads as a way for them to do that. TV advertising now has a huge opportunity to get back in front of the viewers it lost a long time ago. Our job now is to show up elegantly and try, just try, to make ads that people don’t want to pay hard-earned cash or chop off spare limbs to avoid. After all - TV isn’t a medium, it’s a channel. The medium is film, and great storytelling combined with intelligent use of targeting and data provides an opportunity to create ads that work with these new platforms and for our target audiences.
Andrew Long and James Millers, creative partners, Leo Burnett UK
The thing we love the most about this industry is how the canvas constantly grows to give us new ways of connecting brands to audiences.
As creatives, that means there are more ways of bringing an idea to life than ever before. But while it’s exciting to play with these new mediums, that doesn’t mean we should ditch the ones that came before. It’s all about finding what’s right for the idea.
If an idea calls for big emotion at scale, with a proven ROI, there are few channels that do this job better than TV.
So, maybe the question should be less about the medium and more about the message. After all, it was only a few months ago people were doubting the role of cinema amongst all of the streaming platforms. But then Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan came along to remind everyone how great that experience can be.
At Leo’s we’re all about populist creativity, so we know first-hand how the experience of a great ad on TV, just like a great movie at the cinema, can build brand love effectively. The same way we know how sometimes a social activation, or a mobile experience, or any of the countless other channels we have available to us, may be even more effective for a different idea.
It may no longer be the cornerstone of every media plan like it has been in the past, but hopefully that means it is used more deliberately, based on the power this medium has to communicate ideas in a way that moves people at scale.
And if that means a future with more brilliant TV advertising to enjoy, that’s okay with us.
Dave Anderson and Ian Brassett, Senior Creatives, Ogilvy UK
“Oh, you 2 geezers work in advertising? You do the Meerkat? What about that Go.Compare guy? Barry Scott?
Tell someone on the street about your Cannes winning social campaign and they’ll look at you like the confused dog from the Flash advert.
What gets quoted most: TV, social posts, carousels, posters, or DM’s? The answer is simples.
No other medium quite has this power to make creativity become part of our vernacular, from school kids saying it in the playground, to workers in the office dropping a quote into a meeting.
Though TV may no longer be the force it once was, it is still very capable of this. The John Lewis Christmas ad is as much in our culture as ever. It doesn’t feel like Christmas is here until you have seen it.
Though these moments are becoming fewer it does mean that when one does land it has the opportunity to make an even bigger impact. It only takes a brilliant piece of sticky language, an inspired bit of casting, a beautiful performance, or someone sitting backwards on a horse and suddenly you’re out of the TV, out of the front room, out of the house, and most importantly out of advertising and into the real world. No other channel quite offers this.
The future of TV is TV. But we should remind ourselves what made it so special in the first place.
The old dog hasn’t changed at all. You’ve still got 30-60 seconds and it’s going to appear in the middle of a show. Pick the right spot and it will be seen by an average of 5 million people a night. So why do we now look at it so differently?
It may no longer be a brand’s first priority, and it shows. At times, it’s easy to spot the craft, budget, time spent on script writing, casting, aren’t what they used to be. But it’s important to remember this is a medium that still has plenty of unexpected opportunities and tricks up its sleeve. Whether that’s the inspired Tide ad break takeover or a chicken shop talking to your Alexa. And who remembers that live skydiving ad?
And the more of this brilliantly executed mayhem TV serves up, the more of this brilliant mayhem will sneak its way into language, life, parodies and the history books.
I’m on a horse.