This is the video of a presentation I gave at TAM Ireland’s Plannervision conference on 17th September, in which I look at a less biased, more effective approach to thinking about television. Apologies for the sound, you may need to turn up your headphones!
The crux of the argument is that it’s critically important that we as a broader industry are introspective, aware of our own biases and start to take a more integrated look at television and digital.
As the great psychologist Daniel Kahneman said: Humans have an almost unlimited ability to become blind to our own biases and ignorance’, and this has led to hyperbolic thinking around TV’s death.
The Goldilocks approach to television is a theory that attempts to find a middle ground in the extremely polarising arguments that hamper the industry, to find a way through the bias and overconfidence.
Within the presentation, I give three examples of how this approach will benefit the industry.
For links to data and other sources, see below. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to get in touch via @shaneoleary1 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A logical fallacy is something most of us encounter each day. It’s a flaw in reasoning, an epic fail of logic that doesn’t stand up to real scrutiny. Like tricks or illusions of thought, fallacies often become accepted, because nobody bothers to challenge them or investigate further.
And advertising is full of them.
Despite our big words, big data, and in some cases, big budgets, this industry is permeated by a set of norms that don’t make any sense. These are things we’re taught in college, that are reinforced by peers and managers. They’re incorrect heuristics that we think make our lives easier, yet have a negative impact on every campaign.
Some of the best research in how our industry really works has come from contrarian thinking. Kahneman has outlined the fallacy of ‘the rational man’, Byron Sharp has told us the truth behind ‘How Brands Grow’ and Ad Contrarian has taken us beyond the bullshit jargon of adland and towards real enlightenment.
And yet many of us still fall into the same traps, myself included.
It’s easy to default to and defend accepted ways of thinking, much harder to ‘think differently’.
Old habits die hard.
Here are six of the most commonly held marketing beliefs in marketing today, and why each of them are at best illogical, and at worst downright dangerous.
Fallacy 1: ‘Social is just a low cost ‘soft’ branding tool and can’t be used to drive hard metrics’
When social first started making its way into the minds of advertisers, it was seen as a holy grail. A low cost way to communicate directly with ‘fans’ and an opportunity to drive emotional proximity. But the reality these days is very different. First of all, social isn’t low cost. The monthly budget required to create a coherent, evolving strategy and great visual content, and to moderate pages on an ongoing basis is substantial, whether it’s through an agency or internal.
But on the flipside, the theory that social can’t be used as a conversion tool or sales driver is also untrue. Facebook in particular is a missed opportunity – it’s incredibly nuanced targeting options make it the biggest direct marketing tool in the world. Social ‘action’ buttons are coming in across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, allowing brands to drive clicks to a conversion page, while the option to overlay owned data (CRM, newsletter, app and website usage) with social data allows for highly targeted creative. Sure, for some brands (FMCG for example), driving sales is more difficult. But for e-commerce (ASOS is an excellent case study), social lead ads can prove a positive stepping stone on the consumer journey.
Fallacy 2: Digital requires a completely different way of thinking to ‘traditional’ advertising
The rise of digital has certainly proven to be a game changer. Separate agencies, consultancies, departments and industries have grown around the sector, all with presumptions that digital is the only answer. But that’s a dangerously biased way of thinking. Firstly, ‘digital marketing’ itself is a legacy term. It shouldn’t be seen as a standalone. All marketing is digital, and if digital isn’t baked into your ways of working and thinking as a default, then good luck, because the industry has moved past that. But also, there is less difference between the core tenets of traditional marketing and digital than many would care to admit. The smarter operators retain a lot of respect for the thinking that’s come before, and maintian perspective. They stay skeptical, question the experts and understand that the science part of marketing is still the same – find the most probably buyer and deliver the most relevant message to the. Indeed, digital marketing’s deepest, darkest secret is that it hasn’t delivered on the widespread success that was mooted, at least not by disrupting traditional rules. Ironically, digital it’s at its most effective when it actually plays by traditional rules!
The real advantage of digital is not based on specific targeting, rather the fact that it helps us broadly reach new customers in a more cost effective way. The real value of platforms like FB, Instagram and Snapchat is the ability to get textured, interesting brand messaging in front of a broad target audience (just like TV!). Stick to the principles that have always applied to great marketing you won’t go too far wrong.
Fallacy 3: ‘Wastage is a bad thing and loyalty is the holy grail’
Common perception is that the more targeted and segmented your marketing efforts are, the higher return on investment they’ll drive for your brand. On the face of it, this makes sense. But of course that’s the danger with a logical fallacy – it looks good but doesn’t stand up to further inspection. In reality, according to famous research by Binet and Field, wastage can be a good thing. The benefits of wide brand reach, particularly if you’re using novel, high creative campaigns, outweighs tight targeting. Targeting non-existing customers is a much more effective way to attract new users – campaigns with this objective are 3x more effective than trying to keep people loyal. Of course, relevance is important, and digital/social tools are great for that. But that needs to be teamed with wider ranging activity (which is why TV is still incredibly important). Merely targeting existing customers alone is a fool’s errand. Byon Sharp’s influential ‘How Brands Grow’ book says something similar – Ensure the brand is easy to buy for everyone, and continuously reach all buyers in a category, rather than just those you think are ‘loyal’. Wastage is underrated – think of it as a conversation with tomorrow’s customers!
Talk to all of your prospects most of the time, and target those most interested with something relevant from time to time. Simple!
Fallacy 4: Music is an afterthought
Write the strategy, write and design the ad and stick in some stock music afterwards. Simple right?
For some reason in the past decade, many video and TV campaigns seem to have forgotten the importance of using notable, disruptive music. The golden era of TV ads in the 80s relied upon noteworthy music that everyone from Mum to little Johnny could sing along to. But no longer.
Music costs have soared as bands’ usual revenue streams diminish and they start to realise their songs commercial worth. But similarly, clients tend to place visual mandatories on a brief, saving music mandatories for only the largest campaigns. This is a mistake. Anectodally, the most famous, shareable video and TV spots use music as away to touch on emotion, create mental structures and meaning and offer cues. Music can heighten the emotional impact of visuals (think of Jaws or Mr Soft), can generate free media exposure (Three Pony), and according to Binet and Field data, TV ads that feature music prominently are on average 20-30% more effective than ads that don’t. If that’s not a reason to invest in music then what is. Music offers a patently obvious example of how non verbal, stylistic elements of an ad can influence consumer attitudes, so make it a mandatory rather than an afterthought.
Fallacy 5: Targeting ‘millennials’ is the easiest way to long term profit
For at least the past decade, marketers have been scrutinising “millennial” customers and creating campaigns and products to suit their tastes. A whole industry has cropped up around marketing to and identifying the changing tastes of ‘millennials’. We think we can target them with the exact same messages on the same channels and they’ll all respond in a similar way if the offer is right. Yet research has shown that not even those who are supposed to be in that category identify with that tag!
Using the term ‘millennial’ to describe the most diverse, globalised, technologically advanced and culturally fast moving generation there has ever been is just stupid. Millennials span 20 years, but innovation is moving at a speed never seen before, and, as a result, technological trends are shifting greatly between groups of people only a few years apart in age. And yet with advertising briefs, when we’re filling the ‘Target Market’ section, the default is often to use the dreaded millennial word.
The marketing community, for some reason, seems to skew towards favouring youth and is biased to targeting young people, when agenging populations in the western world, and different lifestyles mean those over 50 are more often more likely to buy your product than those under 25. It’s a huge error in judgement, but also an opportunity for those who realise it quickly.
A better approach is to design for archetypes that are representative of certain attitudinal and behavioural traits, and then combine these with social, market and emerging technology trends—all things that transcend age or generation. Defining an ideal customer for a potential product or service using broader human themes allows you to create solutions that resonate with a larger group of people. Applying a generational lens will backfire.
Of course, there are more commonly held wrong views about marketing. Indeed it’s perhaps the sector that suffers most from rigid thinking and a lack of interrogation. But by remaining contrarian (which luckily is no problem for me!), we can improve our ROI by sticking to a few simple, generally applied rules.
As a ‘digitally native’ strategist in a ‘through the line’ agency, bias towards digital and dogmatism about ‘traditional’ advertising is my sworn enemy.
Unfortunately, it’s an easy trap to fall into. In the business press, we’re constantly bombarded with screaming headlines about the ‘death of’ television and print, brought on by the incredible disruption of digital in the industry.
But the reality is much less alarming.
Certainly, media spend should follow consumer behavior and based on latest figures, this is occurring. 1.8m Irish people visit Facebook on a daily basis, and three quarters of us visit YouTube at least once per week. As a corollary, Irish social and digital media ad spend is set to grow to around 43 million euro this year and according to the Marketing Institute of Ireland, in 2014 an average of 24% of campaign spend (non media) was focused on digital.
On the other hand, this growth can lead marketers to think in the simplistic manner that digital is ‘eating’ television advertising and to see a battle for supremacy between the two mediums. But for me, there’s an important distinction to be made – this isn’t a question of ‘either/or’. It’s not about creating a polarising argument about which option is better.
Actually, the most effective answer to ‘digital or TV?’ is ‘a combination of both’.
Most strategists will have read the seminal Binet & Field that looks at over 30 years of IPA Effectiveness Awards covering 700 brands. Though slightly dated now (four years old is dated in this rapidly evolving era!) it outlines how digital plays an especially effective role when it’s partnered with T.V.
TV continues to excel as a brand building medium on its own. Indeed this argument was supported by recently released IAPI and TAM Ireland data.
But thanks to growing synergies with online, and changing consumer behaviour it is even more effective when supported with digital activity. The Binet & Field research also found that campaigns focused on brand fame, that get talked about and that invoke emotional salience are by far the most effective for long term profitability. Again, T.V. is the key tool for this – the profit uplift associated with T.V. activity is far higher than any other channel.
But if the conversation can be extended online, a ripple effect occurs. Binet and Field found that adding an online response element to a TV advert boosts the efficiency of TV by a factor of 4x. Given our tendency to share every opinion on social media, it’s the overlap of both mediums that actually creates the best brand effects. From a repetition, cost effectiveness and efficiency standpoint, integration is vital.
We’re also in the era of attention deficit. Whereas previously the TV was the magnetic draw in an Irish living room, now smartphones, laptops and tablets suck attention from the box in the corner and onto the smaller screens.
‘Second screening’ – the process of using a secondary device while also consuming television, has become a default behaviour. According to Google, Irish consumers have an average of 3.1 connected devices and we are rated 6th (out of 46 countries globally) in terms of frequency of multi-screening.
It goes without saying that fragmented attention requires fragmented media plans and campaign activity. And if we can re-activate people online, this secondary touchpoint has a halo effect across TV too. Even the most disruptive online ad network, Facebook, is seeing the light when it comes to the importance of overlap. It has recently adopted more traditional buying and measurement tactics to woo TV advertisers. Using integrated Nielsen data, ‘Target Rating Points’ buying on Facebook will let advertisers buy video ads on the site based on the percentage of a target audience that will see an advertisement across all channels. The company says that by complementing TV campaigns with Facebook video ads, it can help to extend reach, efficiency, and effectiveness — in other words, more people see it, click to watch, and convert to actual sales.
While T.V represents a proven, wide-reaching, immediate impact, brands are using social as a cheaper megaphone to bolster broadcast campaigns, or to extend the characters and themes they use in TV into a richer, deeper story online – the ‘transmedia’ effect. Though it’s a big, bolshy tech company and has plenty of cash, even Facebook doesn’t see the need to undermine the power of ‘television in tandem’. On the contrary, it wants to facilitate it, and for good reason. According to recent research from Nielsen, a 19% increase in targeted reach was instigated when TV and Facebook ads were combined versus TV alone. This rose to 37% among those under 30, the company stated.
Digital offers scale and reach along with highly effective targeting. Combine that with the brand building impact of TV and a campaign becomes far more impactful – a ‘surround sound’ effect occurs. It’s a symbiotic relationship. This is particularly relevant in a media environment as small as Ireland’s.
The value of T.V. advertising is undisputed. Rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. Michael Wolff argues that it’s ‘a medium of value and exclusivity, unlike digital’ in his excellent contrarian book ‘Television is the new television’. But at the same time supporting T.V. spend with digital is now mandatory and the importance of ‘multi-channel’ campaigns is only going to increase.
Strong alone. But even better together. As marketers we shouldn’t forget that.