Industry should stop ‘being surprised’ audiences are ‘changing how they watch TV’, says ThinkBox chair Tess Alps

The media industry must stop “being surprised” audiences are “changing how they watch TV” because that is what the TV industry is sinking their money into, the chair of marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, ThinkBox, Tess Alps, has said.

Tess Alps:

Tess Alps: Broadcasters are spending money to encourage audiences to watch TV in different ways

Alps, who is in Sydney to speak at tomorrow’s ThinkTV marketing forum event, told Mumbrella: “We should stop being surprised that people are changing the way they watch TV because broadcasters are spending shedloads of money encouraging them to watch it in a different way.

“The trouble is we’re not measuring it quite the way we should be yet,” she added.

Alps was referring to the data narrative that suggests TV audiences are in the decline – this year’s Melbourne Cup race saw 1.986m tune in to witness Almandin’s victorydown on last year’s 2.068m; however Seven’s live streaming audience was up 18% on last year’s audience of 300,000 to 575,000.

Alps said ThinkBox’s mission – and, similarly, the goal of ThinkTV in Australia – isn’t to tell media agencies not to spend with digital channels such as Youtube but to consider the level of spend and what channel to give up in exchange.

“Of course you should be spending money on Youtube, but it’s at what level and what are you going to stop doing? What’s so wrong is to think those things are a substitute for TV,” she said.

TV television

Alps said the drive towards digital can sometimes be driven by “fashion; people do things to tick a box”.

“There’s a difference between fashion and innovation. Fashion is about being seen to do something without any particular regard to the outcome,” she said.

“Innovation is about a more structured approach to something new.

“Agencies should be trying innovative ways – they should ring-fence part of the budget and say ‘I’m going to try this new thing and I’m going to structure research to see if it works’.

“Innovation should apply to TV, it’s not a traditional medium in any sense of the word. It’s a medium that endures. It never stops changing, it just absorbs every new technology that comes along. It’s an unrecognisable medium from 60 years ago.”

Alps rejected the notion that media planners are dismissive of TV in favour of digital channels.

“If a media planner said TV is irrelevant, they’d look stupid,” she said.

“You have to reach a broad section of the community to create fame, to create long-term memory because people don’t buy cars tomorrow, they buy them in two years time.”

It was a view supported by ThinkTV CEO, Kim Portrate.

Kim Portrate:

Portrate: If you’re selling a product that you need volume and weight of audience to understand than TV is the right option”

“If you want to reach a mass audience, television has unparalleled reach and scale,” she said.

“The question is more, ‘how does TV partner with other media?’ and depending on the product and the category, that can move around. And it should.

“As a marketer you have a brief this month which maybe is quite different to what you want to accomplish with a different brand next month.

“They’re all unique children. They all need to be fed and watered appropriately. My view is that if you’re selling a product that you need volume and weight of audience to understand, then TV is the right option.”

On changing the narrative that TV is a dying medium, Portrate said the mission is explaining that TV has value.

“Changing any perception is always about starting with a point of difference and explaining that either has value or merit and once you have that evidence in your pocket it’s about communicating that and advocating on behalf of the platform,” she said.

“It’s not rocket science in the true sense of the word. It’s being present and making sure that what you’ve got is fact-based and sharing it in an appropriate fashion.”

Back view of couple watching wildlife movie on television in living room

Alps would not be drawn on the question if local broadcasters should cut back the number of ads in prime time viewing, saying Australia is a different culture to the UK.

“Broadcasters are sensitive to what their viewers find acceptable,” she said.

“We’re always conscious, wherever you work in advertising, to the acceptability of advertising, and it’s about: ‘is the exchange fair?’; ‘is the exchange for what you’re giving to me for free worth my time and attention?’

“We know that’s breaking down and that’s why there’s so many ad-blockers. People have pushed on online advertising too much; people are very resentful of it.

“We find, ourselves, the acceptability of advertising is hugely dependent on creativity but also the state of mind people are in. If people are watching TV in a relaxed way they are much more accepting of advertising than compared with on-demand; they’re short on time.

“With on-demand they’re more impatient to get started, so pre-rolls are less acceptable.”


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