Last week, Deloitte released a report concluding that 'TV advertising still has the greatest impact on consumers'. This unexpected finding was derived from survey research conducted in July by YouGov on 2100 British consumers - research which, in the opinion of your humble columnist, is absolute and total crap.
Let's start with the method. YouGov asked consumers to think about different forms of advertising they had seen or heard, and indicate which 'impacted' them the most. In my opinion, asking consumers to self-report complicated issues such as the persuasive impact of communications is ridiculously invalid.
It's not that consumers lie when asked a question like this - rather, they simply do not know the answer. Self-reporting data has been proven to be invalid for questions as basic as estimating a consumer's household income. It is therefore unlikely that any of the consumers in the YouGov sample had the faintest clue which advertising medium truly had the most 'impact' on them. They provided an answer, but the answer was bogus.
However, let's assume for a second that consumers can accurately report this information. It's still a flawed piece of research because the costs of the media being compared vary. The last time I looked at a rate card, the price of a 30-second spot was wildly different from that of an outdoor ad. Even if they were the same, the effective frequencies required to reach the 'impact' being reported by consumers would probably differ as well. In the study, TV advertising was reported to have four times the impact of outdoor advertising. What if an out-door ad costs 20% that of a TV ad, and needs only two, rather than three, exposures to deliver its impact? It would work out to be a superior medium even with a lower reported 'impact' score.
Even if we pretend that all media have the same unit cost and require the same number of repetitions to have impact, the research is still flawed, it seems to me. For the past 15 years, no one has cared about comparing one media with another in this binary way; it's called Integrated Marketing Communications because it's intended to be integrated. Comparing apples with oranges is an irrelevant endeavour in the age of the fruit salad.
Only a year ago, that was Deloitte's recommendation to the ad industry. A report suggested it should look at online media 'not as a solitary platform, with a mission to compete with traditional media, but as an element of the media mix within a campaign'.
Why would Deloitte make a 180-degree turn and publish a report only a year later, claiming that TV advertising 'packs the biggest punch'? A more cynical columnist might suggest that, because the report was commissioned for the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Deloitte is happy to conclude this.
Shame on Deloitte's media practice for publishing this report. Shame on YouGov for being clearly out of its depth in the world of advertising research. In my opinion, it ought to stick to political polling, where things are simpler and within its skill-set. Moreover, shame on the TV executives that commissioned this piece of fluff.
There are two reasons why TV advertising is in trouble. The first is that it is a 20th-century medium, rapidly becoming outflanked by more advanced options. The second is that the TV industry is run by the kind of dinosaurs who think these kind of reports are good for business. Put those two bullet points in your next report; they come free of charge.
Mark Ritson, PPA columnist of the year (business media), is an associate professor of marketing and consultant to some of the world's biggest brands
30 seconds on Deloitte's 'Television's Got Talent' study
- The report showed that 64% of the British public believe TV advertising has an impact on them, twice that of news-paper advertising and three times that of magazine, radio and outdoor.
- A whopping 75% of 18- to 24-year-olds reported that TV ads have an impact on them, despite mountains of other evidence that this demographic is not watching as much television as older generations.
- Online media performed particularly poorly in the study. Both online search and display ads were cited as having less than a fifth of the impact of TV advertising, with a mere 12% and 8%, respectively, of the British public naming them as a medium with impact. Despite this, total UK adspend on the internet is set to overtake total TV ad budgets this year for the first time.
- The report was devised and written by Jolyon Baker and Ed Shedd, Deloitte's head of media, for the MediaGuardian International Television Festival. The festival takes place this coming weekend.