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Paradigm seen shifting in East London

Police today issued an urgent appeal to the public after a suspected paradigm was seen shifting near Shoreditch High Street sparking local unrest.

Said one onlooker who declined to be named: “At first I wondered what it was that was lurking outside the chicken shop near the tube but then I realised that it was a paradigm shift. One minute everything was like it was, the next it wasn’t at all what it used to be. It was beautiful.”


Some witnesses described the incident as a ‘game-changer’ and there was some confusion over whether the paradigm had actually shifted or the game had changed a bit.

Others were convinced it wasn’t a shifting paradigm at all but an entirely new paradigm. But there was a consensus that something had happened and things would never be the same again.

“This is the apocalypse,” said one. “Forget what you know. If you’re over 25, give up. You’ll never understand this. Wake up, the future’s here, sleepyhead.” He then gathered his trousers up and left.

Another said “You know the game? Well forget it. It’s just changed.”

‘Nothing much happened’

The Police have issued a statement:

“As far as we can tell, nothing much happened, but there are loads of people telling us something did, so we have to investigate. So far everything seems fairly normal but we would like the public to remain vigilant in case this changes.”

Asked about the consequences of the suspected paradigm shift, experts warned against hype and knee-jerk reactions and suggested people look at the evidence before getting too carried away.

Not great, Brittin

But better.  Last week, at IAB Engage, Matt Brittin, Google’s vice president of business and operations in Europe, said that YouTube in the UK was ‘bigger’ than ITV (channel? broadcaster?) for 15-34s.  This is something of a rethink from what was being said by Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt back in May when he said that YouTube had ‘overtaken’ the whole of TV.

So better, but not great, Matt.  Because this endless comparison to TV perpetuates the myth that TV and YouTube are in competition, when we know they are complementary in so many ways.  They are not even equivalents; ITV, along with many other broadcasters,  makes its programmes available via YouTube.  I wonder how ITV feels about helping YouTube expand only to get this sort of comment?  It creates an impression that YouTube is growing at TV’s expense, which is untrue, and I assume the intention is to encourage advertisers to fund any YouTube advertising from TV budgets.

That’s what’s really so irresponsible about this comment.  This energy that always goes solely into flinging around media consumption stats is a distraction from what we should really be talking to advertisers about: effectiveness.  Comparing time spent – and reach alone worse still – is  wilful misdirection in my opinion from what matters, and I say that despite linear TV hours being three times greater than all hours spent online (sources: UKOM and BARB in August, a lower than average month for TV viewing).  In that regard, the evidence of TV advertising’s supreme effectiveness (often enhancing online media effectiveness) is overwhelming.


Vive la télévision!

Thinkbox has recently been saying bonjour, ciao, begroeting, guten tag and god dag to some of its wonderful cousins in Europe.

Actually, in all honesty, it hasn’t. Thinkbox has been guiltily speaking English to TV people from across the continent who have all replied in faultless English, all of which has left us feeling a little ashamed and uneducated.

But nonetheless, we have been joining hands with TV organisations around Europe.

Thinkbox is no stranger to Europe. We have long had a strong relationship with egta and we are partly funded by RTL, but this increased internationalism is hopefully the beginning of something very useful and positive for all concerned – and for advertisers interested in a better perspective on the health of TV.

While retaining our core focus on the UK, it makes sense to collaborate with other TV organisations which share the same positive mission to help advertisers get the best out of TV in all its burgeoning forms. For one thing, our European union will help address the fact that TV generally talks in terms of individual markets. TV rarely takes a more global perspective, but this is exactly what those who seek to knock TV always tend to do. They bandy about global figures and it is hard to offer a meaningful comparison for TV. By joining together more we can try to give a truer, fairer perspective. Bring some balance to the conversation.

It is early days but the first fruit from this truly European loin was a story that appeared earlier this week reflecting on what a marvellous summer European TV enjoyed. You can read the full press release here. Among its many multi-cultural facts is that Italians apparently watched 3.5% more television in the summer of 2013 than in 2012; 26 million Germans watched the election debate between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger Peer Steinbrück; and, in line with UK figures, across Europe, for every minute spent on YouTube, the average person spends nearly an hour watching linear television.

Ultimately it would be nice to be saying g’day, howdy, kon’ichiwa and hujambo too, but for now we’re delighted to usher in a new era of cooperation, collaboration and wider insight. That’s a good thing however you say it.


Ode to Autumn TV Schedules

Had Keats been alive today I suspect he would have downplayed the whole “mists and mellow fruitfulness” thing and gone large on what we all know are the really important associations with Autumn:  the start of the netball season and the launch of the Autumn TV schedules. This is the time of year when the wing defence bibs are pulled on and the schedules are overflowing with the glorious bounty of a long hot summer of production.  Every week that passes brings the return of a well-loved staple or the arrival of some new delicious TV treat to graze or gorge on.  Hot foot from the Edinburgh TV Festival I thought I’d share with you a few of the things I am particularly looking forward to in what Kevin Spacey in his MacTaggart lecture referred to as the 3rd Golden Age of TV.

In drama we’re completely spoiled for choice.  Obviously, Downton is returning and, having embarrassingly had to pretend to have got something in my eye when I saw the 2 minute preview of Maggie Smith comforting Lady Mary, I am clearly going to need to steel myself for the first episode. I can’t wait for Homeland to return and have been re-enjoying the Youtube clip of Anne Hathaway’s skit about it on SNL. Cold dark Sunday evenings fly by when there are so many goodies to tuck into. We’re a big Doctor Who household so I’m eagerly anticipating the 50th celebrations in November where Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt will all appear together in one episode.  I’m also really looking forward to Masters of Sex (easy, tiger, it’s actually a very classy period drama starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as sex researchers, Masters & Johnson). The Thinkbox resident geeks tell me that Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is going to be brilliant too. Then of course, there’s the much anticipated Season 4 of Boardwalk Empire, the return of the Cumberbatch in Sherlock and the return of Whitechapel which has hardly got going and is already bleedin’ scary.

There’s loads of new and returning comedy to enjoy:  the last ever IT Crowd (sob sob) as a special, Chickens (set in a sleepy English village during the First World War), and the brilliant Chris O’Dowd in the equally brilliant Moone Boy.  London Irish looks like it will be very funny and if I don’t mention Tess’s favourite, This is Jinsy, I’ll never hear the end of it.  Then some entertainment for all in an even bigger and better series of A League of their Own, the fantastic Gogglebox (a must for anyone working in advertising), Dynamo being even more mystifying, Keith Lemon taking over Through the Keyhole and, by the look of previews, the head teacher featured in Educating Yorkshire who deserves his own one-man show. I reckon my kids are going to love Yonderland, a fantasy comedy drama from the Horrible Histories crew and the new Meaty Mondays season on The Cartoon Network.

And then of course there’s more sport than you can shake a stick at.  And although netball is the biggie, according to m’colleagues there’s something called the Premiership on Sky & BT, the Champions League on ITV, NFL on Channel 4 and though it barely seems credible to me, even more Ashes coming at Christmas.

So, the only problem left for me now is, aside from netball which, clearly, I intend to watch live, is how to decide which to watch live, which to series link on my planner and which to catch up with on-demand. But, as my old boss used to say, that’s a high class problem.

Most irritating things in media #8: ‘Nudging’

My Dad introduced me to the delights of modest gambling at a very early age, via the penny arcades – or, more appropriately, the one-armed bandits – on our holidays in Mablethorpe.

Penny nudge

Of all the various games, the one that both fascinated and frustrated me was the one depicted here, where piles of pennies grew, regularly nudged forward to a precipice, promising an enormous windfall when they inevitably tumbled over the edge. Except it was far from inevitable; I would send penny after precious penny down the slot only to see it rest on top of others, creating sizeable copper mounds, but very rarely did the nudging yield any reward.

‘Nudging’ became one of the hippest marketing buzz-words after Thaler and Sunstein published their book ‘Nudge’ in 2010, based on the theories of behavioural economics. Nudging has its place, but that place is quite specific and often quite small.

When the government slashed its advertising budgets in 2009, it declared that it would explore the full range of behavioural techniques, including PR and ‘free’ social media, to ‘nudge’ people into better, healthier, more responsible lifestyles. Francis Maude left no-one in any doubt that he thought paid-for advertising was a complete waste of government money. Four years later, the news that deaths from drink-driving increased by 26% in 2012 has not surprised many of us in advertising and marketing but it should dismay us all.

‘Nudging’ can make an important contribution, but only when other communications and marketing have created strong desire, taking people to the brink of purchase/action, and it works best for high-interest, pleasure, luxury categories. It barely takes any nudging at all in-store to get me to succumb to a chunky Kit-Kat.

But for most government campaigns, where behaviour change is going to be difficult and tedious, ‘nudging’ can too easily become nagging, which all too easily becomes inaudible, as anyone with a teenager will tell you. To get people to the brink of wanting to undertake serious behavioural change requires highly emotional and motivating messaging. More shove than nudge. Ideally, your family and friends will also see and understand these messages so they can support you through the ordeal.

Hats off then to the Advertising Association for their speedy and robust response to that depressing Department of Transport news.We simply cannot afford to let advertising’s nay-sayers get away with rubbishing our profession when we have so much evidence that proves its value. A glance at the many IPA Effectiveness Award-winning government campaigns will demonstrate the incredible results advertising has achieved for society – have a look here, here, and here for examples. Or watch this film about the success of the government’s anti-smoking campaign.There’s more than the reputation of our industry at stake here; they are gambling with people’s lives.


10 things about TV you need to know from Ofcom’s report

Back from my summer hols (lovely thanks for asking) and into silly season at its height. But what is this I see? Something very far from silly from those clever people at Ofcom.

The beauty of Ofcom is that it is media-neutral.   Yes, we pride ourselves on our commitment to truthfulness about facts, but as everyone knows, we have a TV axe to grind the size of Pluto so when we say positive things about telly, no matter how factually accurate they are, we sometimes receive a cynical dose of ‘you would say that, wouldn’t you?’.  Not so Ofcom. Ofcom is Ofcom.

And Ofcom does proper research. It doesn’t ask its staff’s kids what they’re doing; it doesn’t guess what might be happening based on internet reports; it doesn’t rely on the opinions of people who live or work in Shoreditch.  No, Ofcom, to every corner of medialand’s benefit, does rigorous, robust research you can trust and it does it every year so, crucially, you can also track. No research is flawless of course, but Ofcom comes as close as you can and the scope of their Communications Market Report 2013 is simply breathtaking.

What you should really do is read the report and make sure everyone in your team(s) reads it too. But here are some of the main themes for TV to save you time:

The TV set in the living room is becoming even more popular
* The proportion of UK adults watching TV on the main TV set in the living room has increased from 88% in 2002 to 91% in 2012 (BARB data tells us that commercial linear TV reaches 98% of the UK a month).
* Viewers are enjoying bigger screens in the living room. ‘Jumbo’ TV sets (43”+) accounted for 15.8% of sales in the first quarter 2013, a 4.3 percentage point increase on 2012.

Smart TVs are bought to watch TV
* 7% of TV households had a Smart TV at the end of the Q1 2013, a two percentage point increase on the previous year.
* The majority bought a smart TV because “they needed a new TV and decided to buy one with the latest technology” (51%). Other reasons were “liking the design of the set” (33%) and “wanting the best screen” (29%).

Live TV rules
* Live TV accounted for 90% of all viewing in 2012, with the average viewer watching just over four hours of TV a day – 15 minutes more than in 2008
* There is no significant variation in the frequency of viewing live television between smart TV owners and traditional TV owners, with 88% of all owners using them daily for such content.

VOD is mainly used to catch up
* Many people are using VOD services, but the majority are viewing less often and for shorter periods than watching linear TV. This is supported by BBC statistics, which show that BBC iPlayer accounts for about 2% of total BBC programming consumed in the UK
* The main reason for using VOD services is to catch up on missed programmes or films. The next most important reason given for using TV VOD was “when there is nothing to watch on scheduled TV” (54%) and “want to watch a programme or film at a time that suits me” (46%).

New TV screens are proliferating
* Over half of adults (51%) now own a smartphone, almost double the proportion two years ago (27%); tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past year, rising from 11% of homes to 24%.
* Tablets are also supporting the continued popularity of watching TV live, with more than half (57%) of tablet audiovisual content viewers watching live TV at least weekly via this device.

Time-shifted TV growth is slowing
* The total proportion of time-shifted viewing remains low, increasing from 2% in 2007 to 10% in 2012, with year-on-year signs that the growth rate is slowing.

Multi-screening / ‘media meshing’ is popular
* A quarter of the UK (25%) is regularly ‘media meshing’ – Ofcom’s phrase for doing something else related to what they’re watching on TV (44% for younger people)
* 11% use social networks while watching TV; 3% use apps to interact directly with TV programmes
* Each week, 16% of people do some online shopping while watching TV

60% of Twitter users tweet regularly about TV
* Only 9% of the UK uses Twitter, but 60% of them tweet about TV, according to Twitter/Second Sync data

Online TV revenue growing
* Online TV revenue in the UK increased 12-fold in the last five years, from £21m in 2007 to £258m in 2012. Year on year, the total market grew by 40%.

UK broadcasters invested more in 2012
* Spend on content by all UK TV channels in 2012 stood at £5.6bn, up by 2% year on year in nominal terms.



Binge Britain and deferred gratification

This is a big month in the Clay-White household. My elder daughter is about to become a teenager and I find myself suddenly alert to any and all news stories about teenagers. These stories stalk me in threatening ways across all media. Teenage pregnancies have shot up again apparently after falling for some time.  But what happened to deferred gratification I cry?  Why can’t they wait? They have no patience. They’re so demanding. And so I get to Netflix.

Netflix has done a commendable PR job in recent months off the back of its investment in re-making acclaimed TV series which it makes available all in one go. I’ve blogged before about what this means for TV (answer: not much) but one of the themes that has emerged is one of bingeing: people can now binge on an entire series in one go and not have to wait for a week to pass between each episode.

It has always struck me as odd that no one points out that this is hardly a new behaviour. People have been able to binge on TV series for ages with things called DVD box sets. Netflix is essentially doing TV series straight to DVD but without the packaging. Nonetheless, cue lots of apocalyptic ‘end of the way we watch TV forever’ headlines none of which explains why, when people have this ability to watch things without waiting, they seem content to wait for, er, content. Witness the brilliant Broadchurch which was scheduled across 8 weeks on ITV1 and built audience as it went along.

At the heart of this is the fact that people actually enjoy deferred gratification. They like waiting – and sharing the wait and the anticipation with other people. They also, by definition, can’t binge all the time. And who has the time to binge much anyway? If you’ve got kids (after your teenage pregnancies of course) then snuggling up on the sofa on Saturday morning and gorging on 5 episodes of something is unlikely to happen.

Thinkbox recently identified the 6 reasons we watch TV. Our ‘Screen Life: TV in demand’ research identified them as to unwind, comfort, connect, experience, escape, and indulge. I won’t go on about the research here – even though it is awesome – but there was one fact it threw up that demonstrated why bingeing is not a threat to watching live TV and explains why it continues to thrive.

Screenlife - Needstates card

The 6 reasons we watch TV (click on image to enlarge)

To connect – that is the need for a sense of ‘anchoring’ and to feel a sense of connection to society and individuals within it, to time or to place – emerged as the most important reason to watch TV for the younger 18-24s audience in our sample of heavy VOD viewers. 28% of their viewing was in order to connect – almost double the average from the research sample (15%).

And when given a choice between having the option to download a new series they liked in one go or waiting to watch it week by week on live TV, 73% of the 18-24s said they prefer to watch it week by week. They didn’t want to binge even though they could because if they wait it increases the pleasure and likelihood of sharing it with everyone else. Bingeing is not great for connecting. We were quite surprised they knew this about themselves but it goes to show that, for some things, young people are more than happy to wait.


10 of the best things to happen to TV in the last decade

Cadbury Dairy Milk - GorillaMedia360 turned ten last week and marked the auspicious occasion with its Decade of Achievement Awards. Thinkbox was lucky enough to win Industry Body of the Decade.We have lots of people to thank for this, not least our shareholders, but we must pay tribute to the RAB, without whose inspirational brilliance we wouldn’t exist (and wouldn’t have had lots of ideas to pilfer). And, although she hates me mentioning it and keeps claiming it as an alphabetical bias, our Tess Alps won Industry Leader of the Decade.

Hence, I’m not only beyond chuffed, I’m also feeling a bit retrospective. It has made think about what has happened in the last decade. And so I thought I’d pen a blog looking at some of the best things to have happened to telly in the last ten years. And, in a moment of remarkable symmetry, I’ve come up with 10 of them. Feel free to suggest more.

Record viewing
In 2010, after rising steadily for years, linear TV viewing broke through the 4 hour a day mark for the first time and has stayed there since. It seems that no matter what new technology has appeared, no matter how easy it is to avoid linear TV, people just, well, like it. This has quite a lot to do with the fact that linear viewing satisfies a variety of different emotional needs. Thinkbox has been predicting for years that linear viewing will dip. We are still waiting.

Cadbury’s Gorilla
This reminded people just how brilliant the best TV advertising is. But even more than that, it was the landmark moment when a TV ad ‘went viral’ and it underlined the uniquely powerful combination of TV + online.

Not just Sky+ – other digital TV recorders like V+, Freeview+ and TiVo too – but Sky+ was the first DTR and has become the most established. People had always wanted more control over their TV and Sky+ ushered in a new era which helped people love TV even more. And, counter-intuitively, getting a DTR meant you watched more ads at normal speed than before you had one. Weird and wonderful.

BBC iPlayer
Like Sky+, the BBC iPlayer deserves singling out as it helped establish a new approach to watching TV. Channel 4 got there first with 4oD but the iPlayer turbo-charged VOD viewing and the UK now has the most vibrant on-demand industry in the world. So vibrant in fact that we recently launched a new section dedicated to it on our website. And we are holding an event at BAFTA on 3 July where we’ll be launching new research into it.

This has opened up a world of possibility and opportunity for TV viewers, broadcasters and advertisers. As well as the opportunity to join in with shows or share thoughts in real time, it has also removed the distance between TV advertising and researching or buying the product you’ve just seen. The high street is in the living room and people appear to love it, with multi-screening encouraging people to enjoy TV more, watch more TV, and stay in the room more during the ad breaks.

Tablets – all mobile screens really, but tablets in particular – are one of the new technologies that have liberated TV and taken it to places it never dreamed of going before. On the train, in the toilet, in the toilet on a train…TV can be everywhere now.

Its boss may say silly things sometimes but YouTube has been wonderful for TV. It is effectively TV’s PR department and audition room.

Les Binet and Peter Field
The Godfathers of advertising effectiveness, their studies with the IPA have re-shaped the industry’s understanding of how advertising works – and, in particular, the enduring and peerless effectiveness of TV advertising. If you aren’t familiar with ‘Marketing in the era of accountability’ where have you been? And their new book – ‘The long and short of it’ – is also essential reading.

Event TV
Fuelled in part by the attendant buzz provided by social media, event TV has become a regular part of the TV landscape. From royal weddings to live reality show finals to major sporting events, event TV underlines the power of live broadcast TV to bring the nation together like nothing else. It is pretty good for advertisers too.

The IPA Effectiveness Awards
Technically, these have been around for three decades but let’s gloss over that. In the last decade, TV advertising has been the common denominator for the most effective campaigns – as indeed it has been in the decades before that. The valuable pool of evidence they provide – and the recognition they afford – are jewels in our industry.



Eric Schmidt’s missing chart

Every year, we like to give you an enlightening chart; last year we gave you this one.

This year’s chart was partly inspired by Google’s Eric Schmidt and his recent gob-smacking claim that YouTube has ‘displaced’ watching TV.

The chart, based on official joint industry figures from BARB and UKOM, compares the total monthly reach and time spent in the UK watching TV, using ‘the internet’ as a whole (including watching TV online), and using some of the key internet-based media that receive the most attention in the marketing industry. Here it is:

As you can see, Eric was playing a bit – shall we say – fast and loose with the facts. Hopefully this will offer a sense of perspective next time someone glibly announces that YouTube has ‘already’ displaced TV. In the UK, for every minute spent on YouTube, the average person spends nearly an hour watching linear TV.

This is not to denigrate Youtube in any way. We happen to rather like YouTube and appreciate it is complementary to TV and that not all its employees – certainly not those in the UK – make crazy statements like their boss. But his unsubstantiated claim was immediately reported unquestioned so it makes sense to us to make the facts available so that you can join us in shouting ‘Bollocks’ next time someone repeats it.

Two other points to make. YouTube is going to grow, but the assumption that this time will inevitably cannibalise linear TV time is flawed. We are not in a nil sum game and the consumer research we’re in the middle of at the moment (‘Screen Life: TV in demand’) would suggest that the time spent watching clips and videos shared virally are part of people’s ‘social’ time.

Secondly, Sir Martin Sorrell has recently returned to his theme of how the amount of time spent with a medium ought to be relative to the amount of ad money invested in it. We have blogged on this topic before and pointed out that time spent with a medium (quantity) is not the be all and end all for advertisers; effectiveness (quality) is. But hopefully this chart will be a useful addition to that debate as well. If time spent really was the best benchmark for deciding ad investment, then search would take a fraction of the money it does take, and TV would be laughing all the way to the bank.

(N.B. UKOM data does not yet include mobile. If it did, time spent with the internet and internet-based media featured in the chart could increase by up to 10%).

The AA’s quiet revolution

There wasn’t a great deal of fuss made last week when the Advertising Association revealed the official UK ad revenue figures for 2012. It was quite a quiet revolution. But I think there should have been more fuss made. So here’s some I should have made earlier.

Firstly, the industry should congratulate the Advertising Association for listening to it – no mean feat when there are so many parties keen to express an opinion – and acting. This year they significantly changed how they report ad spend to better reflect the advertising landscape.

Big wow, you might say. The numbers have been cut slightly differently. Stop making such a fuss about it and tell me how awesome TV advertising is.

Well, TV advertising is awesome, but the change by the AA has made TV’s and other content media’s awesomeness more obvious. I’m putting words in their mouths here, but the AA has – tacitly at least – acknowledged that the internet is a technology, not a medium, and that it is used by many multi-platform media. So online revenue from newsbrands is now assigned to newsbrands, Broadcaster VOD revenue is assigned to TV, online magazine revenue is in the magazine brands pot.

They have made it far fairer and given credit where it is due. This makes sense. It is only right that the online ad revenues from high-quality content are given the right home, rather than living in the same cluttered box as search or social media advertising as they have previously. These are substantial and growing revenue streams now. We should all welcome the greater clarity. If nothing else, it makes it clearer how content media are expanding. The AA should be saluted for making the change.

Another reason for some fuss is the fact that UK adspend hit £17 billion again for the first time since 2007. This is a remarkable moment. In real terms it is still a little behind 2007, but let’s not be churlish. Advertising is on the right course, and the AA has proven itself in recent years to be a steady hand on its tiller – not least through its vigorous lobbying on our behalf, its investment in proving the value of advertising to the UK economy (£100 billion in case you didn’t know), and the confident industry platform that its annual Lead conference has become.

Anyone familiar with Thinkbox and some of the points we have raised in recent years will not be surprised that we think the Advertising Association could go even further and stop reporting ‘the internet’ as a single advertising number. But that debate is ongoing. For the moment, we should recognise that their new approach to reporting ad revenue may look like a small step at first, but it is a giant leap in the right direction.


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