This week I sat through a long analysis of the current state of
television advertising, which demonstrated that you have to run a
commercial nine times on Sky One in order to match the impact of just
one spot on ITV.
One of the cheery conclusions was that the status quo still holds: there
is nothing to match the sales power of a commercial break in one of the
channel’s most popular programmes if you want to launch a new car.
Viewers also zap out of commercial breaks less when they are within a
favourite programme, such as Coronation Street. Although satellite
airtime rates are up to 40 per cent cheaper, this hardly compensates for
the reduced loyalty and audience.
However, there are signs of rapid change at the margins and this is
going to have profound implications for the advertising industry.
If you study the ads going to the small, niche channels, an increasing
number are direct response commercials. In other words, companies are
actively seeking out these tiny, more specialist audiences because they
are easier to deal with and clearly lucrative. The ads require little
creative input beyond repetition of a phone number. The calls from
customers are handled without long delays and there is less wastage.
This sense of being on the verge of a major change in the way we are
persuaded to make a purchase has been captured by the recent CIA Sensor
tracking study. This found a dramatic rise in the willingness of people
to buy a wide range of goods over the phone, through direct mail and,
eventually it predicts, the Internet.
It found, for example, that in the 15 to 24 age group, the real
satellite television generation, these personalised methods were viewed
with extreme favour, though they loathed intrusive commercial breaks,
and one in three were familiar with the Internet. This suggests that,
while the 30-second standard ad still has its place, advertisers will
needto create a far more sophisticated network of messages to keep up
with the shifting attention of their audiences.
While there are still plenty of advertisers grappling with placing their
messages on the Internet, and a growth in sites, there are fears that
the mainstream advertising agencies are still lagging behind both their
clients and the new media-literate generation.
At the Price Waterhouse launch of its hefty annual Entertainment, Media
and Communications Technology Forecast last week, one consultant argued:
‘In the same way that the financial services sector sat around believing
a clothes retailer (Marks & Spencer) could never enter their market, it
is possible that in five years’ time Microsoft or Netscape could have
higher billings than many agencies today.’
The solution: agencies need to start recruiting some red-hot computer