Advertising / Experiential / PR

The 30-second TV ad is dead! And in other news, Pope outed as Catholic.

Trevor Beattie, advertising legend and partner at Beattie McGuinness Bungay, has just raised the collective blood pressure of the advertising industry by stating that the 30-second TV commercial is dead. No doubt The Ivy will see an upsurge of bookings as ad-agency bigwigs take their clients out for long, expensive lunches to reassure them that everyone’s favourite diminutive Brummie was merely out for a bit of cheap PR, and it’s still business as usual. “Waiter! Another bottle of the Montrachet Grand Cru.”

What’s more surprising than Beattie’s comment, is the fact it has actually caused such a stir – it even made it on to Radio Four’s PM, a flagship news and current affairs show.

In his talk at the Advertising Week Europe conference, Beattie also made some interesting observations about consumer habits. He described the modern consumer as someone who snacks on content and lives a “…tapas existence…”.

His answer to this is five-second advertising slots.
Hmmm. I would have thought that it’s the very idea of a TV commercial that’s the issue, not the length of it.

But let’s give Beattie the benefit of the doubt. What would a five-second ad look like? Well thanks to Twitter’s new mobile App Vine, we can find out. Here’s one a UK content agency called The Fabl has made about itself.

Personally, I’m not convinced.

The slow demise of the TV commercial has been ongoing for at least 15 years (although it’s really speeded up in the last few years). Almost everyone in the media industry is aware of this. Apart that is from people who work in advertising agencies.

Only a few weeks ago Charles Vallance, founding partner of ad agency VCCP, wrote this in Campaign magazine. “You’ll only create desire by using charm, wit, imagination, aesthetics and personality. Like it or not, the old-fashioned TV ad is still about the best vehicle you’ll find for doing this.”

The most telling thing about this statement is the expression “…old-fashioned TV ad…”.
Charles, you got it in one; without even realising it.

The challenges facing the TV commercial are considerable. Take the following statistic. According to Tesco’s Head of Media Services, in 1977 in the UK three TV spots could reach 80% of the population, but today you need 65 spots to achieve the same reach. If you work in advertising and you find that a scary statistic, then take a seat. It’s about to get worse. That statistic’s seven years old. If things were tough for TV ads back in 2005, just imagine what it’s like now.

The TV commercial is fundamentally a passive experience. You sit. You watch.
Not enough I’m afraid.

These days people want to interact. They want to take part, have their say and be heard. Hence the rise of social media. The perplexing thing is, ad agencies are full of hugely-talented individuals with an array of skills that could easily be adapted to meet the needs of the modern consumer. They just need to tear themselves away from a communications model that hasn’t changed since the 1970s.

Last week I was sat in a pub with a friend discussing car commercials. We discussed recent commercials we had seen, but couldn’t for the life of us remember which brands they were for. That’s damning, given that the automotive sector spends hundreds of millions annually on TV advertising.

But it’s not all bad news for the car industry. The other day I came across this wonderful piece of creative work for Audi, promoting their new Quattro.

It’s everything a TV ad isn’t – immersive, engaging, personal and shareable.

I’m not for one second going to claim that TV advertising is dead. It’s not. But it is difficult to deny that today’s consumers want more than ad agencies dished up to their parents and grand parents.

And if the dinosaurs in the advertising industry aren’t willing to accept that fact, then maybe their clients would be better off casting their net a bit wider.

The new breed of PR and experiential agencies are excellent at getting people talking about things. And in this age of instant communication, isn’t that what clients want? You have five seconds to make up your mind…

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