TV is an active medium

The late Gore Vidal famously said that a little bit of him died every time one of his friends succeeded.  In which case, I may need the services of an undertaker pretty soon.

I’ve just read all of the winning IPA Effectiveness papers from the other week, so my eyes are green with envy, my ears are ringing like cash registers and I can’t stomach any more pie charts.  But before I shuffle off to meet the great econometrician in the sky, I thought I’d nail yet another myth about TV: namely that it’s a passive medium.

Actually, what struck me about this year’s winners (94% of whom used television in one of its many guises) is how active this medium can be.

Take Adam&Eve/DDB’s deserved Grand Prix winner for John Lewis, for instance.  The title of this paper was “Making the nation cry… and buy”.  An extreme emotional response followed by a powerful commercial uplift (to the tune of £261 Million incremental profits in this case) doesn’t sound very passive to me.

Or consider the Department of Transport’s Gold winner, which told how 30 years of TV-led drink-driving campaigns have saved more than 2,000 lives, prevented over 10,000 injuries and created a value to society of £3 Billion.  Over the decades, these ads have shocked, shamed, disgusted and provoked, but I don’t recall them ever washing over me.

Then there’s the British Gas campaign which galvanised an organisation; the McDonald’s campaign which regained a nation’s trust and the Magnum campaign which excited a worldwide audience.

Of course, all of these case-studies used other media too: and rightly so, as the IPA’s own research shows that a multi-channel strategy is typically more effective than a single-strand approach.  But TV still stands out as something of a colossus: an extraordinarily active (and ever-changing) force that can make us laugh, sob, think, shout, scream, play, vote, stop, start, talk, share and, yes, buy.

So perhaps the last word should go to the excellent Snickers paper, which told how a big idea boosted global sales by 15.9% in one year and generated $376M incremental revenues.  The authors here noted that, despite the wider armoury now available to advertisers, “TV is still the best rocket launcher” in many markets.  Now, I’m no military expert, but I don’t think there’s any such thing as a passive bazooka.   So if you have one, you’re using it wrong.

  • Angelina Buchvarova

    I agree with all said, Andy. I was at Cannes Lions 2012 and witnessed the exhiliration around TV advertising. Have a look at my story about TV

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