Agencies fear a future where the viewers control TV advertising

23 juni 2004, 17:09

Technology that skips the commercials threatens to change the nature of television, reports Paul McIntyre from Cannes.

Two big, inter-related topics are a big part of the discussion this week at Cannes. Namely, the increase in consumer control over the media they consume and the increasing irrelevancy of the :30 television commercial. P&G’s Bernard Glock told attendees.

TV broadcasters and advertising types who create 30-second TV commercials should prepare for a major shake-up, if predictions in Cannes this week from the world’s biggest advertiser prove right.

Procter & Gamble’s head of global media and communications, Bernard Glock, told some of the 8000 delegates at this week’s Cannes International Advertising Festival that his focus for the next couple of years would be to counter the global bias of his consumer goods company, and the advertising industry at large, to make TV advertisements.

“The default position of the 30-second TV commercial, that’s what I’m fighting against,” he said. “In 2004, it still feels like 1984, with Big Brother still trying to influence our thinking.”

Mr Glock’s blunt call for a reduction in the dominance of TV broadcasters for large advertisers communicating to the masses is only one of a series of big themes to have emerged so far this week in Cannes.

About 100 of the world’s biggest-spending marketers – a record – have descended on this stretch of the French Mediterranean coast to work out, with thousands of advertising, direct marketing, digital and media professionals, how they should address a dizzying array of consumer lifestyle, media and technology changes. Most expect huge shifts in the next decade in the techniques they use to convince people to buy their products and services.

“Consumers are very close to total saturation – something that was defined back in 1972 by Alvin Toffler in the book Future Shock as ‘a paralysing surplus of choice’,” said Tim Sanders, a European strategist for Yahoo! Europe.

The consequences, according to some, are that this decade will see the most rapid and widespread shifts in the way people consume media, manage their leisure time and buy stuff.

“In 20, 30, 40 years, professionals will say this decade was the biggest revolution in mankind’s history,” said Alexander Schmidt-Vogel, the worldwide chief executive of media buying and planning group Mediacom. “Consumers are taking control of their media and leisure time and they’re more and more able to control what they’re watching, listening to, reading and interacting with.

“We are all back to school in media communications to learn how to connect with the consumer in a way that is touching and enjoyable and welcome.

“Of course, how we design the message is still key for communications. But on the other side, more and more [companies] first have to know when and where the consumer is receptive and how we can access them.

“That’s where media communications – or you can call it access management – becomes the hero part of advertising.”

There were also calls for media regulators to be more flexible in the way they ruled on quarantining advertiser interests with TV program content. The rise of ad skipping functions embedded in emerging technologies such as digital personal video recorders (PVRs) attached to TV sets is making advertisers nervous, as they say it threatens both the revenue and viability of TV broadcasters.

“More understanding will be needed by regulators,” said P&G’s associate director of media in the United Kingdom, Bernard Balderston. “They’re going to have to be more flexible about how advertisers integrate into programming. The nature of TV is undoubtedly changing.

” We all know PVRs are taking a bigger slice of people’s viewing in homes that have them. How we use TV, therefore, is going to have to change, because we know people that have this technology do view TV very differently. They are not willing to watch commercials, particularly.

“For advertisers, it causes a problem about how to use a medium

traditionally we’ve found very effective at selling our kinds of products. We have to find more creative ways of engaging consumers with that sort of medium.”

Mr Balderston said TV would remain an important part of P&G’s marketing activities but the company would be “much more sensitive” to “holistic” communications. “That’s where we start using more specialist magazines and media and more in-store media,” he said.

Cannes also delivered confessions from other quarters of the communications sector this week: public relations, specifically.

Next year, PR companies can enter their campaigns at Cannes to win coveted Cannes Lion awards, although Tim Sutton, European chairman of international PR network Weber Shandwick, acknowledged on Sunday that PR was perceived as shallow and motivated by insincerity.

“Despite the fact that PR is not the only marketing discipline to be subject to social criticism, we should nevertheless take PR’s bad PR very seriously,” he said.


Marco Derksen
Partner bij Upstream

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