A funny thing happened on the way to the great digital takeover. Television never went away. And in fact, it may be more important than ever – especially for advertisers. That’s the premise of a new book by Michael Wolff.
At first, I have to admit I was skeptical about this premise. There’s so much news to the contrary regarding the explosive growth of digital and mobile advertising that it seems like Luddites are the only ones still watching TV. But that’s simply not true.
Wolf gives us this: ‘It is not that digital media, by surpassing television’s total numbers, took TV’s business. A PriceWaterhouse study projects that from 2014 to 2019, TV advertising will grow from $69.2 billion to $81.05 billion. Indeed, digital is not so much taking business from high-margin television advertising but from low-margin, direct-selling advertising — direct mail, coupons, circulars, classifieds — a business that has always been bigger, and significantly less profitable, than television advertising. In the digital space, it is less profitable still.’
He also makes the case that people continue to watch television for the same reason they always have: the quality of the storytelling. It’s very interesting that when you hear that every brand has to create ‘original content’ on the web, what always comes up first is ‘you have to tell a good story’.
Television is a renaissance of great storytelling today. With shows such as Madmen, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards and Girls television is no longer the wasteland it was prior to The Sopranos. In fact, the case can be made that the Internet is the wasteland today with sites like Facebook, Reddit, Buzzfeed, YouTube and countless others.
Wolf also makes this point: ‘Google and Facebook are thriving by selling online ads—but they’re aggregators, not content creators. As major brands conclude that banner ads next to text basically don’t work, the value of digital traffic to content-driven sites has plummeted, while the value of a television audience continues to rise. Even if millions now watch television on their phones via their Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO apps, that doesn’t change the balance of power. Television by any other name is the game everybody is trying to win—including outlets like The Wall Street Journal that never used to play the game at all.’
The bottom line is that TV isn’t going anywhere. Major consumer brands will continue to advertise there because there simply is no substitute. People talk about what they watch on TV. And that includes your advertising, if you happen to be paying the price to appear there.