Thinkbox CEO prepares to bring her defence of TV to Canada

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CMDC Vision 20/20 speaker says the medium isn’t getting the credit it deserves

Lindsey Clay has heard all the arguments against TV ad spending – the dominance of digital media, the indifference among millennials, the streaming effect – and she’s not buying any of it.

Of course, you might expect as much from the CEO of Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK. However, Clay said she has a body of research and other evidence to back her up, and she’ll be bringing it all as part of her keynote session at the upcoming CMDC 20/20 Vision conference next Tuesday at the Tiff Lightbox in Toronto.

“Technological change has proved to be beneficial to TV,” she argued. “Measurement is one of the challenges, but it hasn’t negatively impacted the overall results of what TV can achieve.”

When Clay first took on her current role, for example, she said she heard a lot of chatter about the potential of smartphones and tablets to distract viewers from engaging in TV commercials.

“The opposite has been the case,” she said, pointing to multi-screen campaigns that move viewers from the program they’re watching to a website or social media feed and back again. “The key thing advertisers need to remember is the best of combination is television and some form of online media. If you use that combination, you’ll be successful.”

Recent Canadian data bolsters Clay’s arguments. This week ThinkTV published the latest NLogic omniVuSurvey of more than 1,000 people who said they pay most attention to video advertisements when viewed in TV content on TV sets: three times more than video ads on Facebook, and nine times more than user-generated content (UGC) viewed on a phone.

Clay also warned against assuming millennials are tuning out. She described this as looking at the audience as a cohort, rather than a more diverse set of people.

“If you divide millennials up and not see them as one amorphous group, but at different life stages, you’ll see it’s those at the younger end who have higher usage of YouTube, Netflix, and so on,” she said. “When they move out of the family home and get slightly older, the amount of live TV goes up. The biggest difference of all is when they have children.”

Of course, many brands are still investing in TV, but shifting some of those dollars to other media and platforms. Clay suggested making the most of TV’s unique characteristics in order to maximize the ROI of that spend. For example, its research has delved into areas such as the impact of music in TV advertising, where older classics prove more effective than the latest hits due to the associative nature of the medium. Simply assuming that digital media will offer better tracking may also turn out to be a seductive fallacy, she added.

“There is this sense you know exactly who you’re getting, and the reality is you don’t,” she said. “You know which IP address it’s going to. It’s not necessarily a high-quality context.”

The NLogic survey suggested form factor also plays a role in who watches what and where. For instance, 68% of survey respondents said they preferred watching programming on a TV set because of the screen size, while 38% highlighted picture quality. And despite being described as mobile addicts, 55% of millennials said they have never watched TV on a phone.

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