Television began just under 57 years ago in Australia. During those years, what we see on the small (ish) screen had changed dramatically. From the content made especially for TV to the presenting style of personalities to the actual quality of the image, what we see on our TV screens has largely kept up with our changing expectations and standards.
Except for one very important area, and if the TV networks don’t take note, they’ll soon be without advertisers. We all know what that means.
Since television began, the buying and placement of advertising has been based on various criteria. The demographics and psycho-graphics of the viewer are of prime importance. It would be stupid to advertise the Holden Ute in a daytime chat-show for women. It would be wise to advertise consumer products targeting the family shopper. A no-brainer.
Geographic targeting is also obvious. Why advertise membership to the Sydney Swans in Perth?
A large criterion for advertisers is price. I single spot (30 second ad) in the State of Origin or AFL Final will clearly be beyond the budget of most small advertisers. Large viewer numbers + correct target = high price. It’s the way it’s always been and the single reason the NRL and the AFL achieved the billion dollars plus figure in their most recent TV broadcast contracts.
Yet advertisers are now considering one extra criterion, and this is a biggy! While advertisers in the past were content to place their ad anywhere in the program that matched their target and price, the new breed of marketing executive is beginning to look at what products are also being advertised within the same advertising break.
Put simply, it’s not just the program association that’s important, but the advertising association that can colour a viewer’s perception of the product. If a ‘family based product or service is placed beside a ‘non-family’ based product or service, there is a certain ‘guilt by association’ or conflict of interest. Perhaps there’s even implied consent.
In news circles, Julia Gillard does not want her photo taken when she’s standing alongside Chopper Reed. Tony Abbott does not want a happy snap taken when Kim Jong-un leaps up from backstage and pats him on the back.
In the advertising past, most ad associations were either positive or neutral. A negative association was unusual as products or services rarely attracted large consumer anger. That however has changed.
The rise of sports betting and the 2011 law change relating to the broadcast of live odds during sporting events has changed the way viewers perceive a block of TV commercials. Advertisers can no longer assume that every ad will be promoting a product that is either positive or neutral. A very large slice of the Australian population has a negative view of live-odds sports betting. To sit beside the face of Tom Waterhouse in an advertising block colours your brand in a particular way, and to most viewers, that colour is very dark indeed. No advertiser paying thousands of dollars for air-time wants that.
The Australian viewing public is no longer the public of 1956. They are more educated, more selective and more closely linked through social media. An annoyed individual can become an annoyed and active group in a matter of hours. An active group can achieve wonderful things. They can also severely damage a brand and bring it to its knees.
The Facebook page ‘Ban Sports TV Betting’ with over 500 followers recently undertook a campaign against Bunnings Warehouse for placing their advertisement adjacent to a live-odds sports betting ad. The Bunnings defense according to their Marketing Director James Todd was that they had no choice as to who their ad was placed next to. They were correct, yet that is exactly the problem and the problem is growing. Society has changed, yet the TV network’s approach to advertising placement has not.
For TV networks to offer honest advertising value, the concept of ‘guilt by association’ must be recognised. Advertisers must be told who their co-advertisers are before any contact is signed so that marketing executives know their products won’t be sullied by other products, services or personalities bringing a negative perception to the space. It’s a concept the TV networks, already struggling in a highly developed and competitive advertising landscape, cannot and should not ignore.