Tag Archives: interactive advertising

New ways, new wonga

Prepare for the whiff of burnt rubber in the air as the government begins its u-turn on product placement in UK TV programmes.

There is no doubt that this is a fair decision. Product placement is already on our screens in various forms within acquired programming and as legitimate prop provision.  We can trust that broadcasters, programme makers and advertisers will be culturally sensitive and won’t allow it to alienate British viewers. The difference to the viewing experience will be negligible and programmes will arguably become more authentic.

The introduction of product placement raises some interesting questions. Who will set the price and do the deals?  Who will benefit from the money (TV companies, agencies, producers…)? Will this tempt advertisers who traditionally haven’t used TV as much – Prada, Louis Vuitton – onto our screens and into scripts where they can be confident of the environment? Will it feature in sponsored TV shows; could Toyota sponsor a show where Skoda has been placed for instance? Could brands be allowed to indulge in negative product placement, like getting Frank Gallagher to wear your competitor’s sports shoe? How will its effectiveness be measured?

No doubt these questions and many more will be clarified during the consultation period.  But product placement also raises a concern that I’m keen to make very clear.

The estimated amount of revenue it will bring in is modest compared with spot advertising, but no less welcome for that. Figures between £35m over 5 years up to £100m a year have been bandied about.  Whatever it is, it will join the growing number of  sources of advertiser revenue additional to the £3.4bn of TV spot advertising.  Ofcom reported recently that TV sponsorship was worth £180m and interactive services £70m in 2008.  

This liberalisation has come about in order to attract extra, new money into original UK TV productions.  We must work together to ensure the revenue for product placement is new money and doesn’t cannibalise the existing ad revenue, much of which goes into UK production.

It would be unbelievably idiot of the TV industry to promote  placement by undermining the status of spot advertising.  Yet there are signs of that happening already within the placement and production communities.

There have been a few alarming statements made in response to the expectation of relaxation, re-igniting some of the common untruths about ad-skipping and attention.   We don’t need product placement because spot advertising doesn’t work; we have never watched so many TV spots at normal speed – 2.45 bn a day in the UK – and their effectiveness is growing.  Anyone who tries to sell placement by giving misinformation about TV spot advertising will enjoy Thinkbox’s full displeasure.  Don’t even think about it.

Product placement is a completely new TV commercial opportunity, complementary to other TV formats,  that deserves its own new cash.

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TV goes app

Now, here’s a lovely thing that I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while. The brilliant Barclaycard ‘Waterslide’ TV ad propelled its iPhone app spin-off to become the most popular free, branded game in the history of the iTunes App Store. This is a fine example of TV and interactive media cuddling up and making babies.

BBH’s Barclaycard’s ‘Waterslide Extreme’ iPhone app has clocked up 4 million downloads from the iTunes App Store since its launch in mid-July. It became the top free app in 57 countries.

The Barclaycard TV ad was an instant hit and sparked lots of Twitterface activity.  I loved it too; given that their previous campaign had featured a heartthrob from an all-time favourite TV series, that’s quite an achievement.  Dare (the creative agency behind the app) also created a YouTube channel where people made their own versions of the ad for other to vote on (the excellent tea&cheese’s take on the ad got the most votes).

Apart from actually buying the product, in the ‘olden days’ (like 1998) we could only really show our love for TV ads or programmes by talking about them, imitating them, reading articles about them or buying some related merchandise, like a board game or a mug. We can and do still do all this both on- and offline but, as the existence of the Barclaycard app highlights, we can now do so much more with our TV creative.

We can be inspired to make our own versions, chat in real time about them with people on the other side of the planet, watch extra content, send them to friends, play games based on them or simply watch again. We can even have conversations with the fictional characters that TV ads give birth to, such as the half million Facebook friends and 24,000 Twitter followers of the pre-eminent meerkat of our time.

Of course not every app is as successful as Barclaycard’s but it does demonstrate how potent the TV + online combo can be. T-Mobile’s Life’s for Sharing campaign gets it right too.  Nothing gets the party started like telly and interactive media extends the fun.

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Most irritating things in media: ‘digital’. No 2 in an occasional series

You’ll have gathered by now that I am a bit of a pedantic old bag but I have nothing against the word ‘digital’ per se. It is a perfectly lovely antonym to ‘analogue’. It is, according to a dictionary, a ‘description of data which is stored or transmitted as a sequence of discrete symbols from a finite set, most commonly this means binary data represented using electronic or electromagnetic signals’. So that’s nice and clear.

My problem is how ‘digital’ has come to be used in media and marketing.  It doesn’t do the job required of it.  Even worse than imprecision, it causes confusion.  Earlier this year I witnessed a very senior media figure stand on a platform and tell the audience that when digital TV switchover is complete in 2012 all UK TV will be delivered via the internet.  Erm…sorry, but no.  More and more media are becoming digital; we now have a date for radio broadcasting to go totally digital and outdoor  has lots of exciting new digital formats.  Even print media are compiled digitally, for heaven’s sake.  

There are plenty of other people – Nigel Walley and Ian Darby among them – who object to how ‘digital’ is being used. It is at its most absurd and meaningless when it is used as an alternative to TV. Yet we hear and read it all the time; people talking about choosing between TV and ‘digital’. How on earth did that happen at a time when digital switchover is nearly 90% complete, with many more people enjoying digital TV than have digital broadband? TV could hardly be more digital.

What people mostly mean when they say ‘digital’ is internet or web-based media. What’s wrong with using those words? You could argue that they are too broad already, given that internet media covers a vast range from search and websites, to social media, email marketing and online TV.  But if you are looking for a bigger umbrella word, that can embrace every medium with a built-in return path, including mobile and gaming, then I suggest the word we should all be using is ‘interactive’ media.  This is my personal choice because it’s a truly accurate differentiator between those media and more linear formats; interactivity requires very specific creative thinking and skills.

I accept that language shifts and morphs as we use it to take on new meanings and shake off others, but it still needs to make sense along the way and, anyway, technical terms don’t tend to shift their meanings as much your average word. If we can’t agree what a supposedly technical term like ‘digital’ means then it probably needs a re-think.

Flo Heiss, creative partner at Dare – an agency which has won more ‘Digital Agency of the Year’ accolades than any other – talked at one of our recent events about how he’s bored with the digital word. Dare has dropped it from their name.  Do you dare drop it too?

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