“Gravity-defying” TV advertising in danger of a crash

Business Insider editor Henry Blodget reckons that what happened to newspapers in the last decade is about to happen to TV: an advertising collapse.

Decline was worried about by newspapers for a long time, but denial and hope prevailed until things, well, fell off a cliff:


Against this picture of doom, you could offer a number of statistics that seem to point in the opposite direction. People still spend more time with TV than any other medium, much of it with live TV. It occupies so much of our time – on average – that it looks unassailable as our preferred medium.

And yet… we could be still approaching the edge of that cliff, if the advertising budgets are about to switch away. 

Adding weight to Blodget’s argument, we could point to the news that a resurgent ITV – in terms of creatvitiy, viewers, awards – has had its shares downgraded because the market believes the boost in revenues predicted from the Olympics has been over-hyped, according to the Guardian yesterday:

…a combination of the market overhyping the revenue benefit of the London Olympics and increasing concern about a wider malaise among TV advertisers has led to a fears of a summer slump after June.

ITV’s share price rose to 80p on Tuesday but has since slid 11.8%, to 70.5p at midday on Friday, as a number of City analysts’ notes to investors have attempted to gauge the depth of the summer advertising slump.

Far from being the predicted “summer of love” for TV advertising, it begins to look like the newspaper-like tipping point Blodget is predicting:

“It is not about summer and the fact the Olympics is not bringing in money, there is something wider going on here,” said one senior executive at one of the major UK broadcasters. “There is concern across the board, I’ve been hearing of clients holding back everywhere.”

In the interests of balance, we should note that the most negative analysts at Liberium Capital, think that this is “short-term volatility” in the TV ad market. Others, like Investec, however, talk about “gravity-defying” TV advertising being under pressure.

This latter view adds weight to my theory that we are due a “market correction” in brand spending, away from paid media and into earned media or inbound marketing, as it is variously called. It’s not just TV advertising that is “gravity-defying”, it is all of paid media.

In another Guardian article last week, the wider malaise around sponsorship and advertising for the Olympics was contrasted with investment in inbound media by major brands:

Official Olympic sponsors such as Coca-Cola and P&G have become heavily involved in Facebook to give their global campaigns social media buzz.

The question for the media and marketing industries is this: is the Olympics ad-spend situation a blip or the beginning of a collapse?

3 responses to ““Gravity-defying” TV advertising in danger of a crash”

  1. Two observations from having lived through something akin to this in other markets:

    1. Cyclical change often conceals (or possibly triggers) structural change.
    2. Traditional media producers and advertisers will happily persuade each other that everything is fine, even as the attention apocalypse renders them irrelevant… So you end up with “fine, fine, still fine… catastrophic collapse”, rather than the slow decline most people will assume. 

  2. Yes, interesting as to whether the cyclical change is hiding longer term trends or sparking a sudden shift that has been building for ages. It’s one of those situations that calls to mind tectonic plates, pressure building while all appears stable on the surface. Those rumbles: harbingers of earthquakes or nothing to worry about? 

  3. With TV, it’s quite possibly something in the middle. There’s still a strong social value in the lean-back, communal watching experience, but I rather suspect that it’s over-catered for right now. Consolidation down to strong event-centric TV, with other forms beginning to be funded by different models?

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