To TV or not to TV? Mike O’Sullivan on why you’re asking the wrong question

We keep hearing it: TV is dead and digital is the dream; your ticket to ever-lasting marketing glory. Why do we keep hearing it? Because those proclaiming it invariably work in the industry they say is our only future. But is it really?

What after all do we mean by television? Today in a digitally disrupted world every industry is in transition. The world of television of five years ago versus today is completely different. More traditional free-to-air (FTA) models are becoming interactive with On Demand and social amplifiers like Facebook and Twitter as part of their programmes and advertising, while social channels like YouTube and Facebook are acting more like broadcasters and becoming content creators and in between there are now a myriad of new broadcasting models like Netflix and marketing-owned channels like Red Bull.

Basically it’s not about television any more, it’s about video. Video is the gold standard for engagement. Research shows consumers overwhelmingly want videos. So for marketers it’s the most important trigger to create sales and customer loyalty. So it’s not about television, it’s about creating good visual content that connects with consumers and can be repurposed for a variety of different distribution methods, including television, online and mobile.

If you look at content as a whole and do not define it by individual distribution methods you can see how cost effective it can be to make good video content that is effective across the spectrum.

Rather than being on the way out, television remains and will remain for some time (in New Zealand at least) the strongest and most cost effective distribution method for video by far:

  • Kiwis still watch three hours and 28 minutes of television a day, You Tube is nine minutes
  • The average click through rates for online ads is still just 0.1 percent. When was less than one percent a good delivery of anything!
  • Television in New Zealand is 40 percent to 50 percent on a cost-per-tarp basis cheaper than Australia and other markets. 

We need a reality check on the blindness that is accompanying the digital evangelism and self-interest of those people trying to drive digital faster than consumers are actually adopting it.

If you look at consumers today not a lot has changed: time poor, need advice, need curation and they still like stories; good stories that resonate with them, that engage them both rationally and emotionally. Yet too many campaigns still just shout meaningless messages at them regardless of the medium/distribution method.

Worse, some marketers still think their consumers are just like them. But Ponsonby is not Putararu. The vast majority of consumers simply aren’t as far advanced in media consumption, gadgets or time spent online as the people trying to sell stuff to them are, as Nielsen’s study showed. And they are older. 20 to 35 year olds are the future, but we are in 2014, not 2020. 35+ is the rich market and they are more traditional media consumers.

Marketers must think about reach. There are simply too many ‘art projects’ being sold to clients because it is a cool brand element, but they are designed more for looking good rather than for actually selling products. Think about your consumers’ pathway to purchase, apertures of receptivity – i.e. talking to them about stuff they want to hear about, when they want to hear it.

We must get away from the old definition of television. Television is just the curation and distribution of audio-visual content. Yes, TV is free-to-air, but it’s also Sky; it’s on-demand; it’s Netflix; it’s YouTube; it’s media-owned websites like MindFood; and it’s client-owned websites like Lion’s The Mix, Mitre 10’s Easy As or Wattie’s Food in a Minute. 

When you make effective video content that can be used across all screens, it’s not just very cost effective, it can be incredibly powerful. So can we please stop talking about television as if it’s dead. It’s alive and well; consumers still love it and digital is just adding to the passion.

  • Mike O’Sullivan is executive director at BrandWorld, which makes video content for Food in a Minute, The Mix and Made to Match, and a TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards hall of famer. 

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