Gray Matters: TV advertising, safe ad placement, converting traffic and ageism

Decline denied

Anyone who thought TV advertising was on the decline must have had second thoughts reading TVNZ’s half-year revenue was up $3.1 million. 1.8 percent up on the past year’s performance doesn’t sound like much, but in an environment where many commentators are talking about the decline of television advertising, this result comes as a welcome relief to all those who make a living in this sector.

The growth of TVNZ OnDemand has helped the numbers and may merely reflect the good job Kevin Kenrick and his team are doing at TVNZ.

Perhaps there is a lag down this end of the TV viewership market. In other countries the talking down of network TV continues with prognostications like “the sky is falling for network TV” from the U.S.

The launch of BritBox in the UK in the second half of 2019 is, like TVNZ OnDemand, an attempt to fight back against the rise of Netflix and other streaming services. “Research with the British public shows that there is a real appetite for a new British streaming service — in addition to their current subscriptions,” says BBC director general Tony Hall.

Britbox is a joint venture between BBC and ITV, and last week ITV reported strong 2018 results but warns of advertising challenges ahead. The broadcaster attributed “the strong fiscal performance to the success of its production arm and More Than TV revenue strategy,” reports The Drum.

ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall said the More Than TV strategy was about the repositioning of the ITV brand, developing data and digital capabilities, increasing ITV’s ability to offer addressable advertising and expanding ITV’s direct to consumer activities. It looks like TV network executives are rising to the challenges.

Meanwhile back in Kiwi land, the spin from The Spinoff is: “We’ve been waiting for the tipping point, where online really surges against broadcast media. It just arrived.” Editor Duncan Greive had just read NZ on Air’s “epic new audience behaviour survey”. In a fact followed by spin, Greive’s conclusion is: “Broadcast is still #1 – but likely for the last time.” When reading this, Kenrick must have recalled Mark Twain’s famous quote: “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Advertisers bolt

When Sky News Australia (broadcast in New Zealand) pulled all advertisements from The Bolt Report to protect brands’ reputations during a segment where Andrew Bolt defended accused paedophile, cardinal George Pell, it raised the question of who should make that kind of decision.

Advertisers on The Bolt Report in the days leading up to the episode were Ford, Coles, Audi, Ikea, Jenny Craig, Coca-Cola, Budget Rent a Car, Audi and dozens more, yet none, according to the editor of The Herald Sun, Damon Johnston, had complained about Bolt.

The Guardian report on the incident, highlights the culture clash that has seen activists attempting to use denial of advertising as a weapon, in much the same way as the attempts to de-platform speakers who hold a view that doesn’t correspond to their own.

Whatever one’s own views, progressive or conservative, advertisers and media owners are going to have to decide whether advertising placement is their own prerogative or whether they are happy letting others make that decision for them.

Converting traffic

“Digital advertising has been simultaneously the best and worst thing to happen to a lot of brands,” writes Peter Koeppel on Adotas. Koeppel is president of Koeppel Direct, an influential direct response media firm focused on direct response television (DRTV), online, print and radio media buying, marketing and campaign management.

“On one hand, the reach that can be achieved would be absolutely impossible by pre-digital standards, but with that, marketers end up having to try to tease out how many of those visitors are really ad bots or other forms of ad fraud.”

Brooke Shatles wrote a great piece in Forbes entitled: “How To Avoid Digital Ad Fraud And Reach Your Real Audience”. She advises digital advertiser to remain wary. In my own experience, it is apparent that clicks don’t necessarily equate to sales or even prospects. Traffic can sometimes barely relate to conversions.

“You can get 1 million unique visitors to your site every day and never sell a single thing,” writes David Zheng on The Daily Egg. “In most cases, you have to find the source of the problem. It’s like diagnosing a disease. If you don’t discover the root problem, you’re simply masking the symptoms,” he writes. “Translating traffic into conversions and revenue isn’t as easy as it might seem.” You can say that again.

Sell by date

“Is Australia’s advertising industry ageist?” asked Greg Graham, an Australian industry icon when he found himself redundant from WPP. In his guest post for B&T, Graham argues his experience highlights a real problem of how the industry treats its older employees.

Well, let’s ask ourselves: “Is New Zealand’s advertising industry ageist?” In September Stuff printed an article; “45 and unemployable — warning to Kiwis that ageism is alive and well”. Journalist Rob Stock quotes retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell as saying: “Ageism is alive and well in the job market, sometimes cloaked in vague comments like ‘not the right fit’”.

Maxwell says: “We need this issue to be addressed at the board table level so that organisations develop a clear plan to attract and retain older workers.”

Now none of this was written with the advertising industry in mind, but anecdotally one is led to believe that New Zealand advertising is at the sharp end of ageism.

New Zealand branding luminary, Brian Richards, says: “Media and advertising still lump all older people into one homogeneous group. Mocked, often trivialised, and worse patronised, the advertising industry continues to worship at the altar of youth presuming that people between 18 and 49 have the most disposable income. This is quite wrong. People aged 55+ spend the most money in almost all categories. They buy the most cars, spend the most on electronics, and control the most wealth. Yet why aren’t advertisers chasing them?”

As Rob Stock wrote: “In the competitive, egalitarian cultures of the West, where generations typically don’t live together, it may be that we have the perfect conditions in which ageism can thrive.” I would say: “In the competitive, egalitarian cultures of ad agencies, it may be that we have the perfect conditions in which ageism can and does thrive.”

Richards explains: “Ignoring older people is tolerated. If society feels that way at large, and if advertising follows the parade, why should marketers feel any different?”

Alex Murrell, writing for Medium, hits the nail on the head: “The advertising industry is addicted to youth. We are obsessed and possessed. We crave it in our agencies and we covet it in our audiences. We believe younger staff are more creative and younger consumers are more valuable. But this is nothing more than received wisdom. Dogma upon which we have all been indoctrinated. Spurious beliefs and specious myths; unquestioned, unfounded and ultimately unsound. By undervaluing older staff, we undervalue expertise. By overlooking older audiences, we overlook opportunity.”

I would be interested in readers views on this subject.

Millennial mysteries

In 2017, an article in StopPress stated that according to a study by Quad Graphics, print advertising is the thing that makes millennials stop, take notice and make a purchase. “Millennials like to hold print in their hands, read it, smell it, use it to link to a video or coupon, save it, take it to the store with them, and share it with friends.”

So, having had a view that millennials were obsessed with social media advertising, I was interested to read on Netimperative that millennials are, “more likely to advertise on traditional mediums than older generations”.

A survey, from The Manifest — a business news and how-to website — indicated that, “about 95 percent of millennial entrepreneurs advertise for their business, compared to 92 percent of generation X and 70 percent of baby boomer business owners”. Also, “41 percent of millennials advertise on TV, compared to 17 percent of generation Xers and 10 percent of baby boomers.”

The Manifest’s 2019 Small Business Advertising Survey included 529 small business owners and managers across the US. “Older generations have tried traditional mediums and either had great returns and stuck with them or didn’t and abandoned them,” said Josh Ryther, senior partner at Deksia, a marketing strategy and brand development agency in Michigan.

Contrary to popular opinion, “Great Entrepreneurs Are Older Than You Think,” writes Krisztina Z Holly in Forbes. She advises: “Older entrepreneurs can be role models for the next generation, who should first learn real technical and creative skills that are in short supply in the real world. Although it’s commendable for young innovators to try their hand at a start-up if they have a compelling idea, they shouldn’t be enticed away from developing a foundation that they can build on later.”

Holly believes founders identify different opportunities based on their unique prior knowledge. “While a 20-year old may have little more experience than going to classes, using their mobile apps, and pursuing their hobbies, a manager from a manufacturing company might recognize the need for new logistical software, or a technician in the energy industry might see the opportunity for a better ceramic filter. These opportunities are not sexy nor obvious to someone fresh out of college, but they can make a unique and compelling value proposition and the basis of a successful company.” Read her article here.


Tweet of the week is from Tom Goodwin, author of Digital Darwinism, and retweeted by DDB New Zealand CEO Justin Mowday: “I would really, really love advertising in 2019 to be absolutely obsessed with great ideas, bold leaps, wonderful craft and a marvellous understanding of people. How do we make that the new shiny thing?”

About Author

Graham Medcalf is a freelance writer and owner of Red Advertising.

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