It’s all gone screen crazy

Brainwaves: How to use screen media - Screen media has infiltrated virtually every aspect of consumers’ lives. Andrew Canter argues that it provides a real threat to ITV and early adopters can expect exceptional value for money

Almost every day, the post and/or e-mail brings me another new opportunity to advertise on a screen.

In itself, TV screens outside of the home (OOH) are not necessarily a new concept. These days, I cannot step outside my front door without being subjected to a screen – shopping malls, newsagents, train stations, sports shops, clothing stores, buses, trains, hairdressing salons, toilets, bars, nightclubs, stations and many more.

The key issue is one of everincreasing fragmentation in being able to reach our potential customers; but what should we do about this phenomenon and, more importantly, what advice should we be giving our clients? Perhaps the catalyst, in recent weeks, to raising this issue has been the much-discussed launch within the nation’s largest retailer, Tesco, of its in-store TV service. There are currently around 100 stores with this point-of-sale (POS) TV service and, by October, it is reported that it will be in 300 stores.

Although the debate continues to rage about how effective this new service may be, there doesn’t seem to be any clear direction for advertisers on what to do about this new medium and, indeed, the explosion of other screen opportunities to advertise on OOH TV.

Tesco TV (TTV) is being seen as the first major investment to become a serious alternative advertising medium for some brands. It will use “state of the art” equipment, but with digital technology now widely available, it becomes an affordable reality.

By 2005, those 300 stores will attract around 20 million customers per two-week campaign. This adds up to a potential target audience that any marketing director would be extremely delighted to reach. The significance of this should not be underestimated; recently it was reported that Tesco accounted for one out of every £8 spent in the UK retail market.

What does it really mean for advertisers? It may sound astonishing, but the choice that advertisers face is not whether their TV commercials should appear on ITV1 or Channel 4, but whether they should be on ITV1 or TTV.

When you compare the number of viewers to a programme such as Coronation Street, ITV1’s flagship soap, at 12 million viewers per episode, TTV really does stack up. Add to this the power of brand association when the purchase decision is being made and you have a compelling reason to consider TTV. It really does become a mass medium.

Although this sounds like the dream solution for many advertisers in reaching their sales targets, things are never that easy. There is the important question of what it costs, the increased power it potentially gives the retailer and the quality of the content being transmitted on screen.

Taking each of these in turn; it is expensive when compared to the “normal” TV trading currency of cost per thousands (CPT). Given that there has been much debate about whether TV should move on from the archaic way it has traded for the past three decades, then as a “new” medium it was a missed opportunity, as they should have created a brand new currency that embraced product sales linked to viewing occasions.

This is exactly what TTV should give advertisers; early indications show that brands advertised on TTV showed a 10% sales growth, compared to those stores that had no screens. This performance was measured across 62 brands within a 10-month trial period.

We feel that this was potentially a big mistake and could prove to be its Achilles heel in selling TTV to agencies.

The power of the retailer continues to be a real live issue for many advertisers. Not only is it a question of shelf space, but due to loyalty schemes such as, Tesco’s Clubcard, they know more about their customers’ purchasing habits than many advertisers ever will. Combine this with the power of TV messages at POS and you have a pretty compelling proposition.

Perhaps the biggest question is over the type of content that will air on this and many of the other new “screen” services that are now widely available. With an ever-more discerning viewing audience that has become accustomed to hundreds of TV channels at home, it will be fascinating to see how this content will capture their imagination.

We know from our own research that programme environment is a major factor in retaining the viewer’s attention and generating awareness that will keep the brand “top of mind”.

It has been proven that traditional TV plays an important part in building a brand, particularly at launch phase.

We must also bear in mind the distraction (screaming kids?) and noise within the store environment that is bound to impact on the viewing experience, compared to “normal” TV.

However, this is where we believe it gets really interesting from an advertisers perspective.

The whole area of advertisers producing and owning content has been much debated over the past few years. It is becoming increasingly clear that there will be many advantages for advertisers that own branded content.

Of course, you cannot make people “watch” in-store, but if you create exciting, entertaining and engaging content, then you will greatly increase the opportunity to capture that increasingly elusive potential customer.

We believe that those advertisers that embrace this “brave new world” now will achieve “first mover advantage” and be in an increasingly powerful position; as the owners of the screens will require content to fill the hours of time on their services. Early adopters of this type of advertising solution can expect exceptional value for money with a proven return on investment.

By owning content, the advertiser changes the dynamic with the media owner, having the potential to “barter” advertising space on the medium, in return for supplying programming and will also be able to take the content idea “off-screen” into other media properties, such as magazines and online.

Looking toward the future, exploiting the content to its maximum potential is perhaps the most crucial part of any branded content programme.

The majority of advertisers crave an integrated communications solution which can be taken “through-the-line”.

In this fast-moving interactive digital world we all live in, it is now harder than ever to engage positively with the average consumer (young or old), but, quite frankly, this type of advertising will move us [ever so slowly] toward discovering the “holy grail” of deeply effective, highly powerful, value based communication.

We work extremely hard on selling these types of solutions to advertisers because we firmly believe they will result in a significant return on their investment over the next few years. It is in all of our interests to strive to find new and innovative ways of communicating with our potential customers now and in the future.

Andrew Canter is head of client services at Media Planning Group

The 10-point plan

Tips for advertisers to embrace the “brave new world” beyond the traditional TV screen

1. Be open minded

2. Have the courage of your convictions

3. Look beyond spot advertising

4. Experiment now

5. Work in partnership with media owners

6. Set measurable benchmarks

7. Research thoroughly

8. Learn quickly

9. Don’t be put off if it doesn’t work first time

10. If successful, repeat on a larger scale

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