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Enders: the world as we (really) know it

There I was; Friday afternoon at Media360. I’d made it through the panel session on programmatic buying, the greased pig of the marketing world (just as you think you’ve grasped what it is and why everyone seems so excited about it, it’s slipped away to go snuffling for automated, real-time truffles). My mind was full after two days of wonderful content. The end was now in sight but would I make it? Did I have room for more?

Turns out I did, because the end was the excellent Claire Enders, and she chose to close the conference with a refreshing and revitalising reminder of reality.

She urged advertisers to remember that consumers have a ‘multi-layered existence’ composed of many different media and that despite the excitement about opportunities around mobile and online, ‘traditional’ media – the likes of TV, print and radio – were thriving and dominate people’s media consumption. Here’s the chart she showed:


Enders made many astute and interesting points – such as how increased online activity is potentially bad news for advertisers because many of the places people spend much of their online time are not great environments for advertising. Morty blogged recently about the rarely mentioned fact that half of (non-TV) online video time is spent with adult material.

Obviously, when online environments are high quality and trusted, then great. But there is a limited amount of premium space and an infinite amount of the rest.

The point that struck home the most however was about targeting the demographic with the most money. Marketers are so often obsessed with youth when they should be more interested in wealth. Enders identified people over 45 years old (Generation X and the Baby Boomers) as ‘Generation Wealth’. These are the people who both have the most money and spend the most – women in particular.

Whenever I hear nice stats about my demographic, I’m always smug and delighted for myself, but terrified for my kids. Anyway…

Enders informed us that over 45s own 81% of the UK’s total assets, they have 70% of the disposable income and they are responsible for 61% of consumer expenditure. They also actively switch brands and services, rather than the clichéd view that they are settled with what they are used to.

This is a theme that Bob Hoffman, the brilliant Ad Contrarian blogger in the US, is very keen on. In fact he’s so keen on it that he’s recently set up an ad agency that specifically targets the over 50s as he believes they are a wildly neglected demographic given their spending power. In the UK, Robert Campbell has recently launched High50, a community for the over 50s, who it describes as ‘the most economically powerful, culturally significant, desired and desirable generation on earth’.

So, the message was clear: spend more effort on the demographic with the means. And those means brought us to the end.

(On the topic of spending, it would be negligent of me not to point you towards the econometric beauty of Payback 4, the new effectiveness study by Ebiquity which we launched yesterday. Lots of robust proof that investing in advertising works.)

Feel nothing, say nothing

I sat at my desk recently and, feeling extremely modern and connected, ‘attended’ a webinar called ‘Feel nothing, say nothing’. If nothing else, it took my mind off my very strong feelings about the nightmare at the Theatre of Dreams – although things are looking up now. It also combined two areas I find fascinating: the role of emotion in advertising and how people socially interact about brands.

The webinar showcased research combining work by consumer conversation experts Keller Fay and BrainJuicer, the consultancy which promises to turn human understanding into business advantage. Their research is full of insights we should all bear in mind. Here are some of the highlights:

Online conversation is the tip of an iceberg
90% of all brand conversations take place offline and 82% take place face to face. Only 2% of brand conversations happen via social media. This is not an impression you’d necessarily get given the hype around what social media can do for brands.

The good news for brands is that 62% of all conversation about them tends to be positive. In case you were wondering, the research found that the UK’s most talked about category is food and drink and the most talked about brand is Tesco.

People talk online for a different reason
Brainjuicer/Keller Fay found that the number one reason why people talk about brands online is for social signalling. However, the main reason people talk about brands offline – where the vast majority of conversation takes place – is for emotional sharing.

I found this point really interesting, but it makes sense when you think about how people often behave online to try and create idealised versions of themselves. It is harder to do that in real life, face to face, warts and all. It begs the question of whether online conversations about brands have as much integrity or honesty as offline, emotionally-driven conversations. I don’t have the answer to that – maybe more research for Keller Fay.

Emotion = word of mouth
There is a growing body of evidence about the importance of emotion in advertising. We have known for a while that emotions are central to brand success, not least from the work that Les Binet and Peter Field have done examining the IPA databank which shows emotional campaigns to be more effective than rational ones in creating large business effects (like driving sales and profit) and that nothing creates emotion like TV.

The Brainjuicer/Keller Fay research adds a valuable new layer to our knowledge of emotional influence, and the fact that emotional sharing is the main reason for brand word of mouth helps to explain why TV is so good at creating it.

The webinar also looked at the correlation between different emotions (happiness, anger, disgust etc.) and word of mouth. It showed that there was very little correlation in fact. However there was a significant correlation between neutrality (i.e. not feeling any emotion) and not talking (no word of mouth). You’ve got to get people to feel something.

And Brainjuicer/Keller Fay looked at the strength of the emotion and whether this correlated with word of mouth. Generally the two did correlate; the more a brand elicited emotion, the more it was talked about. The most emotional brands are on average talked about 3 times more than the least emotional. In fact no brand was talked about that didn’t create an emotional response.

So it is clear: if you want to make people talk about you, you need to fire their emotions somehow (and, ahem, there is a form of advertising that is proven to do this better than anything else). Or fire David Moyes.

Total video time in UK is 5 hours a day…unless you know different

I’m breaking my own rule: normally I only blog about one chart a year and this year’s chart was this bobby-dazzler. But sometimes a chart gives me such a pleading, data-driven look that I can’t resist its charms.

Plus it took me bloody ages to do it.

This chart shows total time spent watching video in all its different forms in UK, based on the best full year figures available for 2013:


The chart draws on the figures from BARB, ComScore, Route, IMDB, Rentrak, FAME, DCM, and TV Broadcaster data. It also includes some estimates for out of home video screens (pubs, underground stations, dentists…). The 5 hours a day is the average across the whole UK adult population including non-users of these different forms of video. We wanted to get an idea of the average person’s video consumption.

You’ll notice some interesting things in the figures. Linear TV is three quarters of the total video time (all TV is video but not all video is TV). ‘Adult’ video (i.e. porn) is a staggering half of all non-TV online video time, according to Comscore figures.

I’ve created this chart in response to the questions we always get asked when we publish the TV viewing figures. People want to know where TV sits in the video universe, as video of all sorts of flavours – and, let’s be honest, quality – proliferates.

But I also created it to start the ball rolling. I had a go because the calculation had not been done before as far as I am aware. I would like to stress that I am in no way saying this is the definitive answer. I’ve tried to be as exhaustive as possible and cover as many different types of video as I could think of.

Here’s what’s in there, if anything is missing please let me know…

The first and biggest bit (75.3%) is easy: 3 hours 52 minutes a day of rigorously BARB-measured linear TV. Timeshift and on demand watched within 7 days are in this number as well as live.

Then there is extra TV content watched on the TV set (5.5%) – things like 8-28 day timeshifting, any subscription VOD like Netflix and Lovefilm, and a bunch of what BARB calls ‘unmatched viewing’ which is simply stuff they haven’t got a reference for so it isn’t recognised and attributed to a channel. BARB measures all of this and we have been able to look at an overall figure for this viewing. But this viewing isn’t in the gold standard TV viewing numbers we report or part of the currency that the market trades on.

Then we have TV watched on other devices (1.1%). We know from broadcaster data that there is an average of three and half minutes a day of broadcast content watched on mobiles, laptops, PCs and tablets from things like ITV Player, BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, and 4OD.

Next, and still on the TV set, there is another chunk of activity that is measured by BARB but not reported in its total TV figure. This includes things like games console usage, plugging your PC into your TV, EPG activity that isn’t recognised as a channel, radio consumption through the TV screen and apps usage. This accounts for 3.4% of total video viewing. I know what you’re thinking; radio definitely isn’t ‘video’ – but I can’t isolate the audio only part of that number so I’m afraid it has to stay in there.

Then we leave the TV set and TV viewing and look at other screens. First is the biggest of them all: the cinema screen. This works out as 0.4% of the total.

Then we have online video (not including TV content), which splits into two roughly equal halves. ‘Adult’ video content adds up to 31 minutes per day on average, some 6.7% of the total. The rest of non-TV online video content – so everything from web/mobile  SVOD like Netflix and Blinkbox (i.e. proper TV and film) to videos on YouTube, Facebook and those embedded in publisher websites etc. – adds up to 33 minutes a day on average, 6.9% of the total.

Finally we move to less certain ground where I had to make educated estimates: out of home screens. I managed to get an indication about some of the actual video activity measured on outdoor from Route and some pub viewing stats from Sky, but I couldn’t get it all, obviously, so have estimated that the average person watches a video on those screens in total for about 2 minutes a day. I think, based on the figures I have seen, that that may be generous. But I’m just a generous kind of guy. Given this is mostly just video, not audio-video, you might also argue that this shouldn’t be part of the total because it’s more a moving poster than a TV-like medium.  But again, generosity rules.

So there you go: 5 hours of video a day – unless you know better, in which case let’s work together to find a more accurate number.


London Live lives

London Live lives. The capital’s first 24 hour entertainment TV channel sprang to life yesterday at Advertising Week Europe. You’re probably aware of Advertising Week, unless you’ve had your eyes sewn shut and your fingers glued into your ears. If I glance at my Twitter feed it’s pretty much all I can see (speaking of Twitter and new launches, we launched this new study with them yesterday).

I love London Live living. Yes, they are a shiny new Associate Member of Thinkbox and so I really ought to like them a little bit, but they are also the latest symbol of the health of telly and how it is expanding.

London Live will showcase this lovely city, offering comedy, drama, live events, news and sport, culture and entertainment. Rightly, it doesn’t see itself as a ‘local’ TV station; that tag does sound absurd when talking about a channel that reaches a potential audience of around 5 million households.

Its owners are doing this properly. They have invested significantly in building their own studios, galleries, edit suites and creating the entire associated infrastructure required to deliver great broadcast TV. This is no toe in the water, but a well-prepared plunge in.

And they dive into TV’s warm waters at a very good time. Total TV advertising revenue in the UK increased by 3.5% last year to reach a new record high of £4.63 billion – the fourth consecutive year that TV ad revenue has grown in the UK. And 2014 looks set to be a healthy year too, with TV advertising investment forecast to grow again, boosted by the World Cup in Brazil (the boffins at the Advertising Association and Warc predict TV ad revenue to grow by 6% in 2014).

So, welcome to life, London Live, and good luck.


Reclaiming partnership

Around this time of year, as daffodils spring from the ground, sacks full of entries for our TV Planning Awards spring into our hands at Thinkbox.

This year, one of the categories that has inspired the most number of entries is ‘Best use of sponsorship or content’. Always a hotly contested category, this year it is more popular than ever. And this is no surprise. It is now three years since product placement was first allowed in UK TV programmes and in those three years the ways in which brands have collaborated with the TV broadcasters to get closer to content have evolved at a dramatic pace. Last year felt like something of a tipping point with advertisers combining sponsorship, advertiser funded programming, advertorials, interactive content, competitions & promotions, licensing, televised branded events, and product placement to great effects.

So it was with heightened interest that we recently held our annual ‘Closer to Content’ event. It was a timely chance to look at the latest and greatest in content partnerships and see what we could learn.

Although effectiveness and results are what we’re all about at Thinkbox, the focus of this event was more about how the best partnerships are forged and the lessons that are learned along the way. We didn’t just see the high-performance vehicle in motion; we were given a valuable peek under the hood to see how it actually worked and what fuelled it. We heard about how clients and broadcasters journey together, react to circumstances together and build something special together.

We had a very honest and forthright group of speakers and if a single line from the event summed it up, it was this from Channel 4’s Rob Ramsey: ‘We reclaimed the word partnership’. He was talking about the broadcaster’s incredibly successful, award-laden collaboration with Sainsbury’s for the Paralympics and how every party worked closely together to ensure the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. What I particularly liked was how unafraid they were to change direction and react to events – and it was amazing to learn that as recently as 2010, in the run up to the event, only 14% of people could name a Paralympian. Post Paralympics, many are household names. You can watch Rob in an enlightening discussion with Sainsbury’s Jat Sahota and 4Creative’s Kuba Wieczorek here (click on ‘The blind leading the partially sighted’ link to jump to that part of the event).

Gary Knight, ITV’s guru of content partnerships, talked the audience though ‘Fusion’ – an innovative model for making the best partnerships, and a great check-list for anyone about to embark on one. Although a very modern construct, he confessed that Shakespeare had actually sketched it out some 400 years before he did. Gary also delved into the remarkable success of the tie-up with Corrie; how they “got lucky” with Gary Barlow, and how the sponsorship has led to the comparison website becoming the second largest manufacturer of toys in the UK after Walt Disney: amazing stuff. You can find out how they did that here (click on ‘How to take creative effectiveness to the next level. Simples!’ link).

Long-running TV shows, of course, can have a number of partners throughout their lifetimes. They are incredibly versatile. Jason Hughes from Sky Media and Chantal Rickards from MEC took to the stage to reveal how Sky’s A League of Their Own has nurtured and developed multiple, long-running partnerships which have blended product placement, sponsorship and a wide range of successful of-air activities. We learned that Usain Bolt’s in-show appearance in the Visa Sprint Challenge was the first time ever that, in terms of the impact that was created, product placement rated higher than the programme sponsorship. You can watch them explain how these activities have evolved here (click on the link for ‘One programme, multiple opportunities’).

So, as the appetising pile of TV Planning Awards entries at Thinkbox Towers testifies, content partnerships are hot stuff right now. Advertisers and broadcasters are working together closer than ever to create entertaining, engaging, content-led campaigns which put brands at the heart of TV programming. It gives you a lovely feeling of content.

Soft and Strong (and sometimes quite long)

There will be many people watching the final of the last ever ‘Dancing On Ice’ with heavy hearts this coming Sunday, not least the owners of ice rinks and manufacturers of skates. Their industry reports a big boost in interest and attendance whenever the series is on air.

But thankfully some other TV programmes will follow on close behind to encourage us out of our seats, whether it’s Wimbledon or the World Cup.

Physical activity is one thing but what about intellectual stimulation? If you’ve never watched Dara O’Briain use comedy to tackle logic and mathematics in his ‘School of Hard Sums’ why not watch Series 3 which starts tonight (Tuesday March 4th) on Dave, plus catch-up in the usual places.

Professor Brian Cox is apparently responsible for a surge in applications to read Physics at university. But making Physics sexy isn’t the hardest challenge that TV has helped to tackle. Last month The Economist reported that the MTV series ’16 and Pregnant’ helped reduce teenage births in America by 5.7% in the 18 months following its release.

There is an endless list of positive outcomes from TV shows, from changing what we do – buying books, decorating homes, planting vegetables etc. – to changing how we feel. Programmes like ‘The Undateables’ increase empathy towards people suffering from a range of difficulties. ‘Educating Yorkshire’ helps us understand what it takes to be a good teacher. After the television coverage of the 2012 Paralympics, 65% of the UK said that they saw people with disabilities in a new light.

TV offers a wide range of news, current affairs and documentaries to keep the nation informed and to encourage a national debate on many important issues. But, uniquely, it can also treat the most difficult of subjects in a narrative form that takes the debate to the heart of the nation. More than 10 million people watched the recent emotional and brave episode of ‘Coronation Street’, featuring the terminally ill Hayley Cropper and her decision to take her own life, as it was broadcast. Many more have seen it since and the topic was explored thoroughly in all media.

We all take TV’s enormous positive cultural influence for granted. It’s a soft power; it can’t invest in infrastructure or discover new cures or pass laws. But, like water, it can wear away stone.


Our annual graph: time-shifting isn’t ad avoiding

Graph. Go on, say it. Gargle with it. Give it a good old lick. Maybe even take it to bed with you, with its promise of hard facts and revealing truths. Graphs are what get me out of bed in the morning – that and a certain unnamed fear…

I find graphs so overwhelming that I can only bring myself to publish one blog a year featuring a graph. Today is that day and this blog that blog. In previous years I have given you this  and this. This year, I offer you this: 

Commerical and BBC timeshifting by genre 2013
















I’ll give you a moment to call your colleagues to gather round your screen and soak up the meaning of this graph. Or perhaps you would prefer to email them the meaning, in which case here is an explanation you can cut and paste.

This graph shows two main things. First, different TV genres are time-shifted in different ways. Dramas obviously get time-shifted more, to savour at a later date or collect like a box set. Live TV formats are time-shifted less, obviously. You probably knew that. If we want to interact with TV programmes – to affect what happens on screen using our mobiles or any old phone – then live formats and live viewing are crucial. And common sense tells us that people want to see sport and news live.

Second, and perhaps more important, is that there is no significant difference in the amount of commercial TV which is recorded and played back compared with BBC equivalents. To put it another way: TV is not time-shifted in an attempt to avoid ads.

This runs contrary to the claims of those people who like to think – and boast – that they start watching every commercial TV programme fifteen minutes after its beginning so they can skip through the ad breaks. If you want to meet these people, read the comments below any article on TV advertising on MediaGuardian. They are also usually convinced TV advertising has no effect on them. But how would they know given they never watch any?

The fact is that even though we now have the ability never to watch an ad if we don’t want to, we’re watching more than ever – 47 a day each at normal speed, according to BARB (adding up to a whopping 2.7bn daily in the UK for any numberwangers out there). This is because people get digital recorders because they love TV, want more control and want to avoid missing out; they don’t get them to avoid ads – although of course we all fast-forward a recorded ad break more often than not. And in case you don’t know let me reassure you that any ad that is fast-forwarded is not included in BARB numbers, and hence is free to advertisers.

Here, should you need them, are the latest time-shifting stats from BARB for:

* An average of 88.7% of the TV watched on a TV set in 2013 was watched live (it was 89.9% in 2012).
* In the estimated 59% of UK households that own a digital recorder, 83.6 % was watched live compared to 84.4% in 2012.
* 81% of all timeshifted viewing is watched within two days of recording; 47% is seen within 24 hours of it being recorded.

It looks like the growth in the amount of timeshifting is actually slowing down. Ofcom also suggested this in its recent Communications Market Report 2013. This makes sense. As on-demand viewing shifts to the TV set from other devices it is likely to take a nibble or two out of time-shifted viewing. If I had the figures – and could be certain to control myself – I’d do you another graph. But I’ll save that for another blog.

The Advertising Association is leading, moving and shaking

I’m not shallow about industry events; I judge them by a strict, professional metric: the number of movers and shakers per square inch. If it is a satisfactory level then I will feverishly pinball round the room trying to meet everyone I know or ingratiate myself with those I don’t. On this basis alone, the Advertising Association’s Lead 2014 was a success.

Were you there? You should have been. It was an extremely worthwhile use of a morning. If you weren’t then you can catch up with it on-demand here.

But, in case you can’t be bothered or like most people prefer to watch things live, I have decided to distil its greatness into not one, not two, not three, but four highlights. It wasn’t all perfect of course – I’m staring at you, Helen Goodman MP; those people who kept implying ‘digital’ (sigh) was the one thing SMEs should turn to (while ignoring the fact that TV, radio, newspapers are all digital); and those who implied that these days you don’t have to invest as much in advertising to have great effects. But, other than such isolated incidents, all good.

Advertising Pays 2
The AA used the event to launch its latest econometric study into how advertising pays back to the UK economy, ‘Advertising Pays 2: How advertising can unlock UK growth potential’. This is valuable, fresh ammo in the fight to get advertising the recognition and investment it deserves. You should read it. The key points are:

* UK SMEs account for 50% of jobs, 40% of turnover but only 18% of ad spend
* 30% of UK SMEs currently invest in advertising 
* 64% of SMEs believe advertising ‘has been a success’ with the same number seeing it as value for money 
* Every £1 spent on SME advertising has eight times the relative impact on growth as £1 spent on advertising for larger firms

Laurence Green
The man from 101 is a class act. He persuasively talked about how to make the case for SMEs to invest in advertising, what’s holding them back, the need to educate them, and some government initiatives that exist to help. He also gave a great example of an SME that has successfully used advertising – Gü’s brilliant and effective TV campaign.

He very eloquently summed up one of the main challenges to getting SMEs to advertise: “Most SMEs are travelling with their noses to the windscreen. They are on dipped headlights not full beam. They are looking at the short term not the long. They are looking at cash flow not share price. And as a result advertising looks like a cost.” We all need to make sure they realise it is an investment.

Jamie Isenwater from Ash Park Capital
It was so refreshing to hear someone from the world of finance talking about the value of advertising. Isenwater was behind a piece of research which proved that higher ad spend drives faster sales growth and that the extra profit more than pays for the extra ad investment – “that is why you’ve got a fantastic industry” he told the audience. The challenge is that the financial community as a whole doesn’t understand advertising and what it does…but it wants to, so it is an open door. You can watch him here.

Industry body language
The AA has come a long way in the three years since the first Lead summit. Lead is now a landmark in the advertising calendar and its body language speaks volumes about how it is galvanising our industry and putting it on the front foot (the name of one of the AA’s initiatives in fact). If I was wearing a hat I would tip it to Tim Lefroy and his talented team.

If you watch that without me I’m divorcing you

The turn of the year is traditional time for taking stock and trying to get space to think. Thinking is something that in the media industry we like to “think” we do but it is a rare commodity as we hurtle from inbox to meeting to conference to home to bed to much-needed sleep perchance to dream. So what do I think about when given a bit of head space? Well TV viewing of course.


Our recent ‘Screen Life: TV in demand‘ research revealed six needstates which drive us towards watching TV programmes. In broad terms, there are three needstates driven by content – Experience, Escape and Indulge; these involve a more active selection of a programme. So if you search for and watch something on 4oD or ITV Player it is easier to remember. It becomes more important in your rational mind.

We are often confronted by these easily available rational memories from colleagues in media: the dreaded “sample of one”. We may claim to time-shift everything, only ever watch on demand, never let our kids near the telly and only watch serious documentaries on BBC4, but we generally don’t really stop and truly think about our viewing and the viewing of others. Often people who work in media find it hard to understand why people are not self-scheduling; crafting their “screen based audio-visual experiences” into a “user friendly engaged lean forward” content fest.

I wondered if there was something in this, after all I am a media type of sorts. So I decided to really study my own dreaded “sample of one” family. I quickly realised that the other three needstates – Unwind, Comfort and Connect – which are less about the specific content and more about who you are with – are much harder to spot. Plonking yourself down on the sofa to relax, scanning the EPG and choosing something you fancy is less memorable, but no less important in terms of how we enjoy TV, we just take it for granted. But, when you really think about it, it is there to see.

TV plays a vital role in family relationships. The programmes seem to act as magnets for different parts of the family, drawing us together at different times and in different combinations, cementing and creating bonds through laughter, tears, or just hanging out and cuddling up on the couch.

Our favourite comfort viewing recently has been Sky One’s Modern Family, a brilliantly written and incredibly funny show. This show was all about us getting together, not all the family gets all the jokes, indeed we all pick up different jokes and nuances, but everyone gets something out of it. Mum and dad get all of our children in one place at the same time; they use it as an excuse to stay up just that little bit later.

There are moments of indulge that are easy to spot. My love of anything with “999” or “Real Camera” in the title gets derided by the whole family and I am literally sent to my room or have to stay up much later than I’d like to on a school night to watch it. And mum is on her own when it comes to Call The Midwife – in fact, come to think of it, anything with word Midwife in (as well as repeats of Gossip Girl)

My 11-year old son and I both unwind with a few cartoons that we know are too young for us but, well, that’s the point. Our favourite is Regular Show for Cartoon Network which revolves around the lives of two friends (both park keepers), a Blue Jay named Mordecai and a raccoon named Rigby – it is as surreal as it sounds.

And when the younger kids are safely tucked in bed there is special “grown up kids” time with the adults. Sometimes it’s a fine line on appropriate content, those awkward pre-teen years, neither one thing nor the other, desperate to be mature but not quite getting there. Outnumbered, Dynamo, Harrow, Bake off, Grand Designs and things like Child Genius are safe territory and Downton gets a look in…it is all about being with mum and dad when everyone else has gone to bed.

And of course the adults have their escapist content; the stuff we do plan to watch and the easily remembered. For us it has recently been Homeland, The Sopranos and Silent Witness. Like many others these can become cherished hours spent together relaxing and feeling free from responsibility. These are to be shared. As my wife said playfully (I think) when I threatened to watch an episode of Broadchurch without her: “If you watch that without me I’m divorcing you”. I waited for her.

Why is any of this important? Well it’s vital because we need to keep in touch with our viewers and consumers, understand who they are and why they do things, and how and when we should be talking to them to remain relevant and congruent. That way we can produce better relationships and more love…for each other and our brands.


Hark! The Herald Adverts Sing

If you spot me doing a robo-dance today it is because I am getting into the spirit of ‘Cyber Monday’. Yes, today is the day when – with the last payday before Christmas safely stashed in our bank accounts – a record number of Christmas shoppers are predicted to scroll and click their way to the busiest day ever in the history of online shopping.

That’s ever, until next year.

But while a mountain of media attention is focused on this impressive – and highly visible – online effect, spare a thought for the causes, which are primarily offline and not always so instantly obvious.

There are lots of pre-Christmas cultural-commercial ‘events’ now; we’ve just had Black Friday and now we’re knee deep in Cyber Monday. And another big festive milestone is of course the Christmas advertising – in particular, the TV advertising – which we know fuels so much of the online activity. And this year it feels as though the Christmas TV campaigns have been more culturally significant and have caught more of the public and media imagination than in previous years. From Today to the tabloids, everyone went big on the Christmas ad campaigns this year – so much so that some have likened the Christmas TV advertising to a ‘Superbowl moment’. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I know what they mean.

One of the clear trends this year has been the move towards big emotional advertising. Lots more advertisers seem to be going for the heart over the head – and nothing does emotion like TV:


Click to enlarge

This isn’t a case of everyone ‘doing a John Lewis’ but John Lewis was in the vanguard of smart advertisers tapping in to the proven superior effectiveness of emotional advertising as revealed by the mind-bogglingly clever econometric studies by Binet and Field with the IPA (we’ve produced a film with the IPA which looks at the development of John Lewis’s Christmas campaigns called ‘Making the nation cry…and buy’, which you can watch here).

This year we have had more emotional campaigns than I can remember. Marks and Spencer’s ‘Alice in Oz’, Tesco’s ‘A Family Christmas’, Sainsbury’s ‘Christmas Moments’ and John Lewis’s ‘The Bear and the Hare’ to name a few (you can watch them here). And this outpouring of emotion has coincided with Christmas TV advertising becoming a cultural landmark like never before – amplified by the social media sharing and commentary that now accompanies the ad campaigns.

Whatever your opinion of whether Christmas starts too early – and personally I’d like to have it all year round – the TV advertising has become its cultural starting point. It isn’t really approaching until the ads are on.



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