Network Ten put on drinks and canapes for media buyers last night, with Russel Howcroft working hard to convince them of the power of TV advertising, ideally with Ten. But he insisted that it wasn't a sales pitch for Ten. No, it was a rallying cry for all of TV.
"This is not a presentation about 'Ten is awesome',” said Howcroft. “It's 'TV is awesome'."
Aware of the need not to sound like an “old fart ad guy”, the executive general manager nevertheless told a studio of media buyers that TV, which remained “more ubiquitous than Vegemite”, was not being given the creative passion it deserves as clients expected 360 degree solutions, Facebook and other modern stuff. That's why he got out of advertising, he said, suggesting prime time should still take the prime cuts in the budget carve up.
Howcroft made only one explicit reference to Ten's lowest ratings period for years. “On a Sunday night there are shows – not on our station – that are getting 1.7 million viewers. It's a hugely powerful thing, and it's about using that power for commercial gain.”
Howcroft talked up the Big Bash, which has been one of Ten's performing assets this year.
“With the Big Bash, the cricket gets in the way of the ads," he said. "It's three-and-a-half hours of fast-paced TV and the remote control doesn't get used. That's going to connect lots of buyers with lots of sellers.”
But he said not enough advertisers are appreciating TV's power.
“I don't want to sound like an old fart ad guy, but the power of creativity in the TV media is not passionately understood and is not absolutely people's religion, like it used to be,” said Howcroft. “The creative dynamic has changed – it's hard for advertising people to go to a client and say the simple thing – 'we just need to make an amazing TV ad' – because there is so much fragmentation. The buyer plays a massive role – they need to want to buy great creative work.”
On his 20 years as an adman, Howcroft said: “What TV can do for brands and retailers is quite extraordinary. But I found myself getting into discussions that I did not really believe in – about 360 degree integrations and Facebook and so on. I'm not suggesting they don't play a role, but TV is where stuff can really be shifted.”
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