Michael Stanford, National Creative Director Sales, Paramount Australia
Technological change is hard to imagine but once it arrives, we can’t imagine life before. In the early days of ‘direct mail’ (what we should have called ‘indirect mail’), no one would have imagined the vast troves of data that would allow it to evolve into meaningful, personalised communication. When art directors used Pantone books to choose font colours for outdoor, they would have found it incomprehensible to watch a digital outdoor artwork change in seconds based on news feeds, weather, location, or sale price. When people sat on the sofa watching TV, they would never have imagined that decades into the future people would be on the sofa watching TV. Hang on, have I missed something?
Despite - or more accurately because of - radical technological change, the sofa is now more valuable than at any time in advertising history and more powerful than any other media real estate. That’s right, forget street furniture, it’s the furniture in your living room that beats the lot. Even a massive out-of-home billboard has little on a 65-inch smart TV screen. What’s more, out-of-home advertising has become more reliant on TV for its effectiveness. Let’s look at why the sofa is so far ahead of anything else.
The big change happened in the last three years as the pandemic permanently altered our behaviour. If you think it hasn’t, then try imagining five days in the office, or thinking it’s okay to sneeze in a lift. Co-viewing became exponentially more popular, the non-blockbuster cinema experience just about vanished, and there was a significant shift from mobile and tablet to TV - where over 70% of viewing for streaming platforms now occurs. This coincided with the soaring numbers of connected TVs, up 48% in the last two years.
Connected TV heralded the rise of FAST channels, the aggregation of entertainment in one place, and a range of exciting new premium digital ad products where viewers sit back, lean in, interact and are immersed in consumer experiences. The humble sofa can now enhance and advance every marketing metric while targeting any stage in the sales funnel. Consumers can shop, immerse, play, learn, and find out more. And they are more active in each when the fandom is deeper, which is something we see across the most-loved Paramount formats.
What also makes the sofa so good is that you can offer a much less distracted world. Today’s path-to-purchase poster is more like a dazed and confused stagger through logo hell. The average shopper is bombarded with thousands of brand messages while grocery shopping (they might need to add Panadol to the list).
That distraction changes gear on a four-lane motorway. As such, outdoor often relies on TV to do the heavy lifting in terms of building memory structures, which explains the TVC ‘screen grab’ approach to creativity, or worse, a wordy transcription of the commercial’s key message. How many times do you drive past a bus shelter and the lengthy headline is only legible to the commuter waiting for the bus - that’s if they’re not on their phone bingeing their favourite TV show.
Let’s not forget the state of mind commuters are in because it has a big impact on memorability. Research has proven that a viewer’s happiness and positive engagement has a direct effect on their openness to a brand message. Headlines that begin with ‘Escape the daily grind’ or ‘Don’t miss the bus’, don’t just portray a lack of imagination, they remind us of why traffic is a less than positive experience.
Brand safety can also be tricky. It’s challenging to convey appetite appeal when your food brand is a few feet from the servo toilet. Whereas in a home, your food brand can be adjacent to MasterChef with an audience hungry for content. And an audience with such scale that cultural imprinting - the theory that a message changes the more people see it – can help supercharge the message, accelerating brand fame.
Even ideas that are socially led rely on TV to drive reach and relevance. Hard to imagine a Cannes award entry that champions organic reach without reference to TV news coverage.
Unsurprisingly given the scale, reach and overwhelming dominance of the medium, everyone loves to take a swing at TV. But what’s important for marketers is that TV is not just a survivor, it has adapted to the need states of the audience, confounded the turtleneck futurists of the 1990s and contradicted the digital-only evangelists of the 2000s. TV’s dominance is not just part of the history of media, it is the main storyline for its future.