television the future and advertising

television is a place


“Most people gaze neither into the past nor the future; they explore neither truth nor lies.

They gaze at the television.”




“If television’s a babysitter, the Internet is a drunk librarian who won’t shut up.”


Dorothy Gambrell





Let’s discuss the death of television <once again>.


And even better>?




Death of television advertising.



<said sarcastically … or at least … cynically>



I will come back to how television advertising can really die <that discussion actually revolves around what would be called a crisis of creativity> but let me begin with the business side of television.


As in television and how it is viewed and paid for.


What we seem to forget when it comes to many things in life is that what we like, or what we want, has to be paid for in some way.


To date the tv shows and movies you like and pretty much every piece of entertainment you enjoy is paid for thru advertising <unless you want to pay a subscription>. You get all this great entertainment basically for free because advertising, and the advertisers, fund it.





I am not really smart enough to figure out the business model if you take away the advertising <because I am fairly sure the majority of people would gladly put up with advertising rather than pay a subscription for the gobs of entertainment at their fingertips … or put up with the gazillion telethon fund raisers like PBS does to avoid advertising content>.


But what I do know is that recently, Disney, which owns ABC, made a deal with Dish Network, the satellite provider, that, for the first time, will formally allow the use of technology to let viewers skip ads on ABC shows <albeit you cannot skip until 3 days after initial ABC showing>.


What this means is that media, marketers and culture are moving inextricably closer to a world in which video is wholly unhooked from advertising.


In fact … this creeping development has been one of the underlying themes of modern American media and cultural life. This means one of two things.


Either all these media moguls are really smart and believe TV and tv advertising will never go away <because they still have to pay for the development of all that content> or they have some future idea of how to generate revenue to pay for all the content <but they just have not told us what that is>.


What it really means is that TV isn’t dying but other content deliverers are playing a role.




SmartBaby answer

Here is what I do know about television viewers and all this business wrangling and angst over advertising … it won’t affect:



–          Appointment viewing <your favorite show … you will always want to watch it as soon as possible>




–          Special viewing <do not underestimate the power of ‘wanting to be cool and seeing something as soon as it happens’, i.e., see opening day of big movies ticket sales>.






What we seem to forget as we get wrapped up in all this advertising and ‘commercial avoidance’ debate is that this is more a cultural thing than it is a business thing.



On the business side, businesses and brands, while moving a lot of ad dollars into vehicles outside tv, ultimately face a bigger industry cultural crisis.


It is a crisis of unfortunate facts:



–          Digital media has an inordinate amount of limitations as a method of brand identification & building brand value <not understanding this is a sign of a lack of understanding as to what it takes to build some value in a company or a brand>. In other words … simply showing a logo and a call to action does not create brand value.



–          Sponsored content offers much less of a return than being a television participant.



May these things change some day?






But nothing, so far, has replaced, or even suggests it might someday be able to replace, the powerful combination of video <sight & sound>, a passive relatively focused audience and the ability to tap into a consumer desire creatively .



By the way. That is exactly what tv offers.



I imagine we all need to be thinking about what happens when there is no television advertising of any kind or what happens when even the most unassertive can easily skip even network television ads … but … here is what I know.


Any time there is a fundamental shift in how things are done in an industry a boatload of people will step up to the plate and say “of course … this is what you need to do <or “what will happen”>”.



They are guessing.



In the end a couple will be left standing saying ‘I told you so’ but deciding who they will be is as much a crap shoot as anything else. The Monte Carlo simulation as anything else.



So be wary of those who know the future and what you should do.



I’m surely not suggesting doing nothing … or not listening. But you have to make decisions based on what you believe is right for you and your business. Assemble some information … think about it … maybe discuss it with some likeminded <values & vision> people … but don’t do what any futurist <soothsayer> says … do what you believe is best for you in the here & now.





Because you have as much of a chance of being right as the next person.

right am i


That said.



I do have a couple of beliefs with regard to the crisis in communications:



–               Belief 1:

If you have a title of anything like ‘social media expert’ you are screwed.


Social media is a buzzword.

And while I am all for being social & feeling good <and doing feel good things> … I am in a business. I want to do things that tangibly affect my business … either by building brand value <which means I can charge a higher price than a commodity>, by acquiring higher value customers <ones who will engage with me for a while and not just once> or by actively retaining customers <not just ones that say nice things about me but ones who actually buy & use shit>.



–                Belief 2:

Everyone loves a good story.


The story can be educational … it can have a moral … it can be made up or it could be as real. But a good story is a good story.


Tell it in 30 seconds or tell it in 300 pages.


storytelling infographic


If you can tell a good story … not having television advertising is irrelevant.

TV is simply a means to tell a story. There will always be a time and a place to tell a story <and create a brand with value>.





–               Belief 3:

I’m not sure I like a world without advertising.




Like it or not … advertising is a vehicle in which professional communicators communicate shit to us.





There are good professionals and there are bad professionals <lets call them ‘hacks’> … but advertising informs, educates & inspires when it is done well. It affects how we think and what we do.


One could surely argue that if advertising was only used for what is right an good for us then it wouldn’t be in the shithole crisis it now appears to be facing. I would actually argue that having the good & the bad is … well … good for us. It makes us talk & think & smile & get angry. All aspects of a dynamic engaged society.


I imagine my point is that even the bad has value.




I believe in people. I believe inevitably we will make more good decisions than bad ones therefore I think a world without advertising would ultimately lead to a less informed society. And I don’t like that.



Let me be clear.



This isn’t about ‘selling people shit they don’t need’ … this is more … well … cultural.



Beliefs aside … and whether you agree or not … this leads me to what I truly believe is the crisis advertising is faced with these days <and it is not the death of television>.




Let’s start with key question and truth:



The question:

Do you like being seeing ads when you’re <insert: watching tv, listening to radio, surfing online>?”


You would think the answer is predictable.




“I hate them. Annoying. Most are stupid.”





But the answer is actually not the obvious answer <as with most things in life I imagine>.



I believe people who claim to hate ads don’t really hate advertising <because most can relate their ‘favorite ad’ with a smile>.



What they hate is bad advertising.





“Seeing a murder on television… can help work off one’s antagonisms.

And if you haven’t any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.”



Alfred Hitchcock




A really smart advertising guy, Bob Hoffman, discussed this whole crisis of advertising on maybe 2008.

This is some of what he said:




Advertising pundits are right about one thing. The ad industry is a fucking disaster.


They are wrong, however, about what is causing the problems.

television death way 

The crisis is not being caused by the internet. The internet should be a boon to advertising.


The crisis is not being caused by “new media.” New media should be stimulating a creative resurgence.


The crisis is not the result of consumers becoming immune to advertising. The idea that consumers are suddenly immune to advertising is just plain nonsense.


Unfortunately, the causes of the crisis are much deeper and intractable.



In his diatribe he suggested three reasons for ‘the crisis’ but I will focus on his 3rd reason …






3. Mindless me-too-ism






Me-toosim is a crisis of creativity.

Nothing more … nothing less.



Sure … there is some business stuff <organizational and management bullshit> but it ultimately comes down to this … a crisis in creativity. Therein lies the potential for ‘death.’



Business success <and a happy interesting communications business> comes from making good advertising.



I will admit that from a business perspective this me-tooism can often be driven by the fact business leadership in the communication industry is being more and more led by non advertising trained people like lawyers and MBAs <or as Bob suggests … stupefyingly dull men in gray suits > who couldn’t recognize a good ad if it smacked them in the face.


In fact … if the agencies with these non-ad trained people never had to make any advertsing … if they could just be ‘consultants and branding bullshitters’ they would be happier than pigs in shit.






In marketing or advertising … if you don’t have creativity to sell what is there? <nothing>.

If a creative communications agency cannot provide businesses with the one thing they really want from a creative communications agency  … uhm …  creativity … there seems like there is little reason to exist.



The web has affected creativity <or this crisis of ‘me-tooisim’> is an interesting way.



As Bob also noted in his diatribe … the web is siphoning off great creative talent.



But not training that great talent.

A great many talented young people who in the past would have been drawn to advertising are now choosing to create for the web. And they are not creating ads for the web.

They are creating websites, games, social networks, blogs, videos, and all manner of creative expressions.


This is difficult for me to grasp because while we all talk ad nausea about how the web has opened up huge new advertising opportunities … most of us truly know that <in general> it is a horrible failure as an advertising medium <in terms of real brand value building>.


Everyone cites a very few big successes, argue from that extreme and ignores the fact that the majority is simply a hybrid direct response channel.





I will end with the true crisis <of which everyone is culpable but the web is truly stifling> … the unspoken part of creativity.

That is the strategy … the thinking … the insights that drive great creativity … the strategic part of what agencies do is disappearing.


And without this strategy thinking stuff … communication executions simply become tools of style … not substance.




No insight?

No substance.


And let’s be honest.


While creativity is pretty easy. Substantive creativity is difficult.


And there is a crisis in true insight development and articulation.

The smarter businesses have little confidence in ad agency’s account planning. And many businesses today are trying to build their communication/creative strategy in-house or in the hands of consultants <who have no fucking clue how to inspire creativity>.

<I could write an entire article about how building an effective thinking account management group in an agency would resolve this issue … but i will not>




All my ranting aside … now is a perfect time to look at the ad industry in a new way.


Times of economic stress force everyone, people and businesses, to do something they hate. That is to search for new answers.


The next model for the ad business is likely to be something we haven’t even thought of.


And someone should sit down and figure this out because contrary to all the obituaries … advertising is not dead.


Advertising is everywhere — urinals, grocery check-out, dry cleaning bags … shit … pretty much any where you can think of.

Advertising is thriving, but ad agencies aren’t.magic in the head


This is a great time for new ideas and innovative thinking.


Television is certainly not going to die for quite some time.

Television advertising is certainly not going to die for quite some time.


Be smartly creative and the world is your oyster.




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Written by Bruce