TV or not TV …

Last Friday I took part in a debate that revolved around the relevance of TV in reaching young progressive males in Melbourne.

It was organised by Mediacom and Fosters, they invited 3 people from the digital world and 3 from TV. From the digital side Nicholas Gray from ninemsn and Google’s Kate Mason took part alongside myself; from TV it was Ben Sumpter from MCN,  Peta Webster from Ten and Pat Maloughney from the Seven Network.

The audience comprised of most of the Fosters marketing team as well as selected people from their agency roster. It was a great day and a great format.

Below is what I added to the debate. Would be interested to hear your thoughts.

I’d like to start by thanking Mediacom for inviting me along today. I jumped at the chance to talk about 3 things I have an interest in – the Internet, TV and Beer.

All that’s missing is the fourth element – AFL. That said, as a Collingwood fan feeling pretty high and mighty about our finals chances after a ripper regular season, maybe it’s best I’m not given the forum to talk footy.

The topic at hand is an interesting one – TV or not TV? How relevant is TV in reaching young, progressive males in 2010?

I’m standing on the digital side. Thing is, I love TV. More to the point, I love great content. I love great entertainment. I don’t really think about the channel.

Maybe that’s the problem. When you start with the channel the discussion becomes a torrent of numbers and statistics.

There’s 4 we see often in the digital world

1/ If Facebook was a country
2/ Internet consumption overall is higher than TV
3/ People are watching a lot of video online
4/ Internet ad expenditure is increasing at a rapid rate

I wanted to get these out of the way early so we could maybe think about the important issues. Debating the relevance of a channel using statistics is sort of the media nerd equivalent of a body building contest.

It involves a lot of effort. A lot of posturing. A lot of posing. A lot of gloss. But ultimately it’s embarrassing for those involved and observing.

The way I look at it, technology and the Internet is merely a vessel. It’s not an answer.

Ideas are still key. Marketing as a function exists to persuade and influence. Persuasion and influence are effectively dark arts … they are a mix of magic and logic and no computer program or technology platform can change this.

I was reading yesterday that in the US an ad agency had invented a program that can generate ads. Basically you enter what you want the ultimate outcome to be and it churns out an ad tailored for that.

Great I thought … I’ve picked marketing and advertising as a career and as I enter my second decade in professional employment the computers are lining up to take my job. Not only can they automate research, they can automate buying, reporting and NOW they can even automate the message.

After a while trawling looking for taxi driver job openings it hit me – the purpose of this program wasn’t to take jobs like mine away – it was to demonstrate how predictable marketing and comms can be if we look to technology for easy answers. The program wasn’t to replace human thought, it was intended to challenge the process behind it.

When we work on behalf of clients we look to try and nail two things. Of course we dress them up in a lot of planning babble and diagrams and flow charts and wheels and ideation etc but ultimately we like to get to the heart of 2 key areas

  1. We want to reach the right audience, in the right place, at the right time with the right message. All 4. Not 2 out of 4. Or 3. All 4. This requires looking at more than numbers. Sure, a lot of 18-29 year olds who regularly go to pubs might use a site like ebay … but does this mean it’s a particularly good place to advertise a beer? If so, what are you going to say? And how?
  2. If you work to the premise that 99.9% of things have been done before then you begin to realize that what you’re saying either has to be incredibly useful or incredibly entertaining – or both. And it has to be executed really blo*dy well.

    Old Spice is topical right now but I think it’s worth discussing in the context of the above

What Old Spice did wasn’t anything brand new. Similar things had been done before. Tailored marketing and personalisation turned around quickly is not a new concept. Using YouTube isn’t new. Going viral isn’t new. Using humour isn’t new. Using TV isn’t new. Using the Internet isn’t new.

The things that made Old Spice great related back to the above. They reached the right audience – an audience who liked the message and helped them spread it. They chose their places wisely – focusing on areas that were more about entertainment and escapism than information and utility. They chose their times wisely – allowing them to reach people at a moment that encouraged discussion, sharing and enjoyment. And the message was fun, humourous and memorable.

What Old Spice did wasn’t anything new – it wasn’t a media first. It was the execution that set it apart and the fact the team behind it weren’t afraid to think big and entertain.

Old Spice wasn’t the product of a bunch of people debating the merits of one medium over another. It wasn’t the product of people looking to use a channel as a solution. It was the product of big thinking, big ideas and and bold, excellent execution. They made a piece of communication that was so entertaining that became a piece of pop culture. Channels didn’t drive the idea.

What’s disappointing is that whilst we should be celebrating the power of Old Spice as the payoff for bold thinking and big ideas, it has turned into a contest around whether the idea was a TV or digital one. It becomes a posterchild for social media. For TVC views on YouTube. For ‘the power of the Internet’. For a discussion around the relevance of one channel over another.

Which is ridiculous as for the consumer this is completely irrelevant.

What it does demonstrate is the need for great ideas and great execution. For collaboration between channels.

To go back to the original topic of the debate – how relevant is TV in reaching young progressive males. I guess it’s as relevant as the big ideas and smart thinking that determine its use. Maybe the question should be – how relevant are big ideas and big thinking in reaching young progressive males instead. I think we all know the answer to that.

Collaboration and big thinking is something we’re aiming to keep improving on at Sound Alliance and we look forward to more collaboration and more creativity over the next decade.



One response to “TV or not TV …

  1. wish I’d seen this. Heard about from Sudeep in strat planning the other day and was thinking how good it would to host a debate like this on a larger scale.

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