TV Isn’t The Lone Superpower, But It’s Still A Superpower

Here’s some sweet music to every old school advertising person’s ears: PricewaterhouseCoopers projects ad spending on total U.S. TV will grow to $80.3 billion in 2014 from $62.1 billion in 2009, surpassing its previous high in 2006 of nearly $70 billion.
According to Ad Age, the disruptive digital trends which dominate the pages of the trade press, are not depressing the market for TV. In fact digital’s laser-like focus may be contributing to TV’s enduring viability, since mass marketers still want to reach a massive audience.

Sure, the web, mobile devices and social networks are taking up more of consumers’ time, but other types of media “don’t negate the fundamental value of delivering a large-scale, cost-effective and cost-efficient audience,” said Howard Bass, senior partner, advisory services, global media and entertainment center at Ernst & Young. “You can’t get it elsewhere. That’s the difference between television and various types of online.”

If your agency’s bread and butter is TV production, you’ll have plenty of toast for years to come. Which makes me wonder why some agencies, Wieden + Kennedy being one, are desperate to grow their digital chops. I understand not wanting to give that income away to a partner agency, but is it really that big of a deal to do so? Is it really necessary to be a so-called full-service agency? Does the TV shop really need to control the message in every channel?
No, no and no. With an $80 billion TV pie, the W+K’s of the world can continue to make themselves rich for years, maybe decades, to come. Whereas, for even a modest piece of the digital pie, TV-centric agencies like Wieden + Kennedy must bend their totally ingrained cultures to the demands of the always-on Web. And there’s little evidence of success on that front.
You can tell the king he isn’t king any longer, but unless you’ve also overwhelmed his army and presently occupy his estates, the news will hit the king’s ears like a tawdry rumor.
I see TV as England and digital as France, and I believe the two kingdoms can peacefully co-exist. What do you believe?



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.