I think that technology is being made the fall-guy: what people are really scared of is change. The most insightful thing I heard at the conference was from an agency man, who said: "I was hoping to have retired before all this became an issue."
The only thing that should scare us is significant change in consumer behaviour, and this doesn't happen often. Supposedly big deals - such as moving newspapers online - didn't really change much, since people still read stories and see display ads. The new stuff is the same: on-demand versions of my favourite soap with TV ads in? Business as usual.
However, on-demand TV advertising may be different, requiring a far greater consumer change to take off. Most technical revolutions, whether the car or the PC, have been accompanied by a chorus of detractors - and on-demand TV advertising is the same. However, case studies from US cable company Comcast, involving brands such as Dodge and Amex, are proving the nay-sayers wrong.
Ultimately, the success of on-demand TV ads depends on the quality of the creative: people have to want to watch. An interesting question is whether the TV industry and brands want this change.
One agency head recently lamented to me about the lack of a big new product group, citing the positive impact of TV advertising on mobile phones and ISPs 10 years ago. But surely the rise of consumer and social responsibility issues is that new thing. Big brands want to tell their corporate social responsibility stories on TV, meaning that CSR is going to be a godsend for the TV industry.
While it is difficult to tell these stories in 30 or 60 seconds, and longer-format branded content has struggled to find its place on broadcast TV, on-demand TV ad formats can provide a natural home for branded video content.
There is now a perfect storm of influences that mean that on-demand TV advertising could be huge. Most importantly, brands are looking to do something different with TV. Now all the creative industries have to do is deliver.
- Nigel Walley is managing director of Decipher Group.
- Colin Grimshaw is on holiday.