Are Viewers Fleeing TV for the Web -- or Is It Just Marketers?

Study: U.K. Consumers Spend More Time With Tube, Suggesting Worries of Exodus 'Massively Overblown'

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TV is winning over a few viewers in the U.K., where viewership is bouncing back slightly after dropping steadily since 2004, but marketers are still abandoning TV rapidly in favor of internet advertising. A contrarian report from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the U.K.'s agency association, finds an increase in average daily TV viewing to 3.6 hours in the second quarter of 2007, compared with 3.43 hours a year earlier.
This Cadbury ad testifies to the power of TV spots -- even if many saw it first on their computers.
This Cadbury ad testifies to the power of TV spots -- even if many saw it first on their computers.

"The hype about the death of television has been massively overblown," said Les Binet, European director of DDB Matrix. "Young people are assumed to be deserting TV for other mediums, but this isn't true. Digital is making TV even stronger, and it is becoming much more cost-effective for advertisers."

All about the internet
But advertisers are flocking to the internet. According to a Group M report, the internet is fast catching up with TV's share of total media spending, and the internet's share of U.K. media spending is forecast to rise to 22.7% in 2008 against TV's 25.7% share.

This year, Group M's breakdown shows 27.1% of U.K. media spend going to TV, down from 28.3% in 2006. For the internet, share of media spending will grow to 18.3% this year, from 14.2% last year.

That's a much bigger switch of ad dollars to the internet than in the U.S., where TNS Media Intelligence last week reported 7.6% of U.S. ad spending went to the internet during the first half of 2007, compared with more than 50% for TV.

In the U.K., the increase in TV viewing comes just as time spent online is beginning to plateau. Mr. Binet, who is on the IPA's value-in-advertising committee, said TV data have been consistently misinterpreted in the past few years.

"People don't generally look at the data on total TV viewing," he said. "The publicity is all about individual television stations and programs, which are going down in lots of cases. Those figures are easily available, whereas overall viewing figures are more obscure. The idea that we are deserting TV for new media is just sloppy analysis.
Les Binet, European director of DDB Matrix
Les Binet, European director of DDB Matrix

"The numbers are seized on by people with an agenda, especially non-TV media sellers. To its shame, the television industry has not defended itself because it is too fragmented and they are all too busy fighting with each other." As if to illustrate his point, repeated calls and e-mails to Thinkbox, an organization set up to market TV in the U.K., went unanswered.

While TV viewing is slightly on the rise, the cost of TV advertising is falling: TV in the U.K. is cheaper in terms of cost of reach than at any time in the past 25 years. "It's not a fashionable message," Mr. Binet said. "Agencies and clients don't want to put out or hear it because they get a lot more credit for saying something about digital media."

No more 'shock and awe'
The popularity and lower cost of pay TV is driving the growth in viewing figures. In 2007, pay TV's share of media spending is rising at a rate of 10.6%, while free-to-air TV is falling at a rate of 5%.

Fallon London Chairman Laurence Green said, "TV plans are no longer about 'shock and awe' -- getting as many people as possible to see them in one big prime- time hit. You can spread your ratings over a few weeks and be surgical over attaching it to the right programs."

His agency is demonstrating that the traditional TV ad still can have an emotional impact. Fallon London's compelling spot for Cadbury, featuring a gorilla drumming to the Phil Collins song "In the Air Tonight," has captured the country's imagination -- although many people, of course, first saw the ad on their computer screens as friends shared it online.
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