TV Advertising Is Dying. Roll On Influencer Marketing

TV Advertising Is Dying. Roll On Influencer Marketing

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By Tom Curtis, Executive Creative Director, MediaCom

This is one of those click-baity titles. It’s designed to hook you in because you can’t believe someone from MediaCom really believes that.

Well, I was given it as a working title, so, sorry to disappoint; I firmly believe that telly is still unmatched for its combination of reach, impact and brand building, and has a lot of life in it yet.

But is TV advertising showing signs of long-term decline? Well, yes, it is. That’s difficult to dispute.

Influencer marketing, meanwhile, is growing. In fact, it’s growing massively and quickly.

Yet the title of this piece implies that the two are, in some way, connected. But look at the current set-up of the advertising industry and you’d surely be mistaken if you thought that were the case.

As things stand, a large part of the ad industry is still reliant on big TV production budgets. At the same time, an ever-increasing number of digital-first agencies and influencer specialists are desperately scratching their heads trying to fathom why influencer marketing is still being treated as a completely siloed discipline – and how to get their hands on some of those tasty TV budgets.

The reasons are fairly obvious of course.

In many big marketing departments, influencer marketing is handled by a different team to those responsible for the TV campaigns. They might all ladder up to one CMO, but below that, everyone understandably wants to make a name for themselves in their specialist area.

Next – while many big brands rightly still want TV ads, their creative agencies want to make them even more. Not only are their business models built on telly budgets, creative teams thrive on the big creative impact that TV ads bring. It’s no wonder creative teams jump at the chance of writing a TV script the moment they hear TV might be on the plan.

But, as we all know, by its very nature, starting with one thing, means other things have to follow. And influencer marketing will be one of those elements that follows. And as long as that continues, influencer marketing will continue to be one of TV advertisings’ many poor cousins.

Here’s the solution.

Don’t start every campaign by writing a TV script.

Think of a bigger, integrated idea (something at MediaCom we call a system idea) that pulls all parts of the plan together. Something that makes everything feel as one. Not a telly idea that rules supreme, but that nothing else quite fits with.

Next – think about how best to approach the creative process. Think about talent to collaborate with. Consider that people who make TV shows might know a thing or two about the type of content audiences want to watch. Or that editorial teams know their readers better than anyone. Or that successful digital content creators have built their following by knowing what their followers are into.

These are the type of people agencies should be bringing into the process to help develop big integrated ideas.

But wait. Imagine you’re a copywriter with a TV ad to write. It’s going to have the biggest portion of the budget behind it. It’s going to win you a D&AD. This is your time. Why let other parts of the plan fudge your thinking? Why let something like influencer marketing muddy the water of a good script? Why risk relinquishing creative control to someone else? How will you earn the plaudits you crave if everyone knows you didn’t write it yourself?

Simple. Do it anyway. The future of the ad industry relies on a more collaborative approach. It needs creative talent to come from all sorts of places. It needs bigger bolder ideas to cut through – that act as a ‘thread’ through all communications. And I would argue the people who should be integral to the development of those ideas are those who know their audiences best. It’s why the term ‘audience first’ is becoming so widely used.

The opportunity I’m describing is bigger than TV advertising and bigger than influencer marketing. The way influencer marketing can ‘roll on’ is to be part of a bigger thing – to be part of a fully integrated system. We just need more people outside of influencer marketing to approach it that way.

About The Author

Tom Curtis, Executive Creative Director, MediaCom

With over 20 years’ service at the WPP agency, in 2019 Tom became MediaCom UK’s first ever ECD. Previously he spent nearly 5 years running the 80-strong content division, MediaCom Beyond Advertising. MBA developed, produced and managed many of MediaCom’s award-winning partnership, social media, influencer marketing, events, SEO and original video campaigns. His career has seen him working across a huge variety of UK and worldwide clients including Sky, Coca-Cola, Sony, Volkswagen Group and Bose. Tom is also the dad behind Instagram’s 500k+ followed @thingsihavedrawn, and co-author of ‘Things I Have Drawn at the Zoo’ with his kids. Tom is also a member of the BCMA’s Industry Steering Group