Most irritating things in media: ‘Wastage’. No. 5 in an occasional series

As a household committed to recycling – at least in spirit – most of the Alps’ waste ends up on our compost heap or in collectable crates.  So not actually wastage at all.

With connected sets and online TVOD, TV advertising is approaching a future where, technically at least, different commercials can be addressed to neighbouring households, allowing the most relevant ads to be delivered to the most relevant people.    I fancy a bit of that.  I can see all sorts of fun and useful things TV advertising could do with it: putting tailored language supers on ads, personalising QR codes and apps for the household’s preferred grocer, managing a narrative sequence or frequency.  I believe that if we can make advertising more enjoyable then it will be more effective.  Creativity, emotion, entertainment matter most here but relevance can make an ad more acceptable, so bring it on.  But, yet again, our excitement about the new seems to require a rubbishing of what we already have.

A week or so ago, a trade magazine ran a feature asking whether TV was living in the past because of its supposed ‘lack of data’ and some senior marketers were interviewed, several of whom bemoaned the ‘wastage’ in TV advertising.

As someone who believes profoundly in the power of ‘AND’ rather than ‘OR’, this rather irritated me for the following reasons:

a)      TV can be highly targeted if you want it to be

b)      you’re not paying for it anyway

c)       how can you be sure it’s wastage?

a) TV is awash with data; BARB offers over 500 audiences (including single people, gardeners, dog-owners etc.) whereby planners can identify the most efficient channels and programmes to buy.  Frankly, you don’t even need to sweat the data hard; if you want to reach sports-lovers you would obviously buy Sky Sports and ITV’s Champion’s League, and for foodies C4’s River Cottage, Good Food and the Food Network.  I think the online world gives that a grand title like ‘contextual’ advertising, but it’s something magazines have always offered and now TV does too.

Behavioural targeting is more problematic.  TV is much less likely to use this technique, at least for TV viewed on the big shared screen but it’s more justifiable for TV viewed on-demand and on a personal device.  But what I see of behaviourally targeted online advertising just depresses the hell out of me.  At the moment I am being haunted online by a massive pair of pants.  I made the mistake of looking at some new knickers online and now every time I go to certain sites these wretched pants pop up.   I had even bought the bloody things.  If that’s what behavioural targeting means I’m out.

Sky and C4 are talking more about collecting information volunteered by households and individuals, or using publically available information like Acorn and Experian data, in addition to advertisers’ own data.  This will be much more acceptable, less sinister and less – well – invasive.

b) The second point is that TV is traded against specific demographics; you don’t buy it by the page or the poster site.  If you want to buy 16-34 men then that’s what you pay for.  Anyone else who happens to see the ad is free.  Not wastage but a huge bonus…

c) …and I can say that because more and more evidence is emerging that the stuff you might consider ‘wastage’ is in fact really valuable for several reasons.   Byron Sharp’s book ‘How Brands Grow’ and the IPA’s ‘Marketing in the Era of Accountability’ both prove that it’s a mistake to target too narrowly, at least at the start of the consumer journey.   No-one can truly predict who might end up a customer.  Reach is crucial.  In addition, final purchasers are often heavily influenced by other people who have seen the advertising.  If you’re a dating site then naturally your final customers will be single people (we hope), but how many of their friends will be persuading them to go for it – or even signing them up?  Then there is the matter of fame and building brand desirability; Jeremy Bullmore talks eloquently about the need for 100% of people to understand what the Mercedes brand stands for in order for the 2% who are final purchasers to want to own the car.

TV advertising is unsurpassed at building mass reach fast and for starting the consumer’s path to purchase.  You’d have to be mad not to value that.   But if addressability and the wise application of data analysis can also make TV ads fit for purpose further down the path then why wouldn’t we want that too, particularly if it gives TV access to more direct and response budgets.  Just don’t fall for the ‘wastage’ line; those people seeing your advertising who you think you don’t want will turn out over time to be fertile compost to nourish your brand.

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