Stay tuned: TV will adapt to direct marketing needs

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By Ellis Booker

Is broadcast in trouble? I’m not talking about the Federal Communications Commission’s latest, election year effort to restore “decency” to the public airwaves or the nearly inevitable, tit-for-tat political commercials that will arrive in a few months as the Bush and Kerry presidential campaigns switch into attack mode.

No, I’m talking about the utility of the medium for the vast majority of b-to-b marketers.

From one point of view, TV looks healthy. TNS Media Intelligence/CMR forecasts TV spot advertising revenues will grow 10.8%—although a good portion of that is attributable to the election season and the summer Olympics.

But try this: Ask yourself what single medium you’d allocate a $150,000 budget against? Does TV leap to mind? Thought not.

The current emphasis on lead generation has pushed money, personnel and, yes, creativity into direct, trackable media: Internet, direct mail and targeted events. When lead generation is king, media that don’t offer advertisers a direct dialog with identifiable prospects have the most trouble quantifying their ROI.

Of course there are—and will continue to be—some great TV spots by b-to-b advertisers with deep pockets. In our annual Top 50 Agency report in this issue (Page 25), we pick Ogilvy as winner in the “large” category in part for its superb “e-business on Demand” spots for IBM.

What’s the future of b-to-b on TV? Think opt in, think online.

TiVo-like services may offer one solution, giving advertisers in-depth, aggregated data about who watched their spots and when. For years advertisers have picked individual shows or niche cable channels because they want to reach this or that demographic. What next-generation platforms will supply are much more granular data and, maybe, the ability to deliver targeted ads to viewers who have opted to see them.

Another intriguing prospect involves the use of TV-quality advertisements delivered on the Internet. Microsoft’s MSN Video and Unicast’s Video Commercial both rolled out in January. Notably, the Unicast platform offers both TV-quality video for brand advertising and direct response capabilities in the form of interactive screens presented to viewers after the commercials play.

Karim Sanjabi, exec VP-creative & technology, Carat Interactive, who is bullish about online video this year, has it exactly right when he says his agency is working on “creative/video experiences that go well beyond simply putting 30-second TV commercials online.”

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