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Future of TV Agency Leadership Social Media

We ask marketers: Will the TV ad ‘slump’ keep getting worse, or is change coming?


By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

February 23, 2024 | 7 min read

We poll five ad execs: faced with competing information about the resilience of TV advertising, should we be optimistic or pessimistic?

An old-fashioned CRT TV, turned into a fish bowl

TV advertising: Dead in the water, or some buoyancy yet? / Sam Balye via Unsplash

Last month, British broadcaster Channel 4’s plan to cut hundreds of jobs was blamed on what is (again) being called a ‘TV ad slump’, which its chief executive has previously called “the worst in 15 years”. Advertisers, the implication goes, simply won’t spend what broadcasters need them to on TV ads right now, as budgets contract and spend shifts elsewhere. Still, on the flipside, this month’s Super Bowl proved to be a typical jamboree of advertising – and one that still commanded an eye-watering media price tag.

So: between those two extremes, what’s going on with advertising’s favorite prestige channel? Are media prices reducing enough to open TV up for more brands? Are Channel 4 and the Super Bowl both outliers, or two sides of the same coin? Which tea leaves should we be looking into if we want to predict the future of TV ads? We asked five marketers.

Charles Ifegwu, US managing director, The Fifth: “This year’s Super Bowl yielded record TV ad spend for good reason, but the role of TV ads has shifted dramatically. Today’s TV creative plays an additive role, not a central role, in marketing plans. We’re seeing ad spend support this thesis, which is why live sports are one of the last frontiers of high-impact television spots – creatives acknowledge the opportunity to tap into a collective, real-time fan experience while interweaving strategy with conversations happening on social. Forward-thinking advertisers understand that culture is no longer defined in the Super Bowl commercial; rather, it's amplified from conversations that are happening online. Kanye West’s Super Bowl commercial, with its no-cost production and TikTok appeal, was a great example of this.”

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Andy Benningfield, head of broadcast, Bray Leino: “Demand for airtime has been in decline since the end of 2022 as economic uncertainty has put greater pressure on budgets and clients have become more cautious about media investment. But since lockdown, broadcasters have become more open to new ways of trading to incentivize investment and encourage new users to TV. Incentive schemes now help to reduce costs by matching investment and offer creative production, often seen as a major barrier. It’s not just incentivized or market-driven pricing that’s helping to reduce the cost of entry to TV, though. TV viewing has been changed by the plethora of streaming services now available. Streamers offer access to broadcaster content, highly defined target audiences, and geo-location down to postcode level – opening the door for many advertisers who may have previously considered TV as an expensive option.”

Ross Walker, social media strategist at Redpill: “While Channel 4’s struggles and the Super Bowl bonanza paint opposing pictures, the reality of TV advertising lies somewhere in between. Media prices may not be plummeting quite enough to democratize access, but they’re certainly adjusting to the shifting landscape. Why? First, programmatic buying and addressable advertising allow precise targeting, delivering relevant ads to specific audiences on both traditional and connected TV (CTV). This efficiency reduces waste and attracts advertisers wary of the ‘spray and pray’ approach. Second, the rise of streaming services opens up new avenues: limited but targeted commercial interruptions. Third, the line between content and advertising is blurring, with brands creating better and more engaging native content like sponsored shows and product placements, fostering deeper connections with viewers. Fourth, advanced analytics can track ad performance across platforms, offering data-driven insights. This accountability attracts brands seeking measurable impact. Fifth, interactive ads on social, shoppable experiences, and voice-activated features are pushing the boundaries of TV advertising, keeping younger audiences engaged and accustomed to digital engagement. This is not a ‘TV ad slump,’ but an evolution towards a data-driven, audience-centric future.”

Jake Wallington, associate director, media, VaynerMedia EMEA: “Despite more favorable TV pricing, the capabilities and effectiveness of paid social combined with the high level of consumer attention on modern platforms means that digital channels are now first on the plan. The buzz around Super Bowl ads is somewhat the exception that proves the rule. Watching the ads is a huge part of the Super Bowl and advertisers know that for the price tag they get a huge reach among a highly engaged audience. It’s different from typical viewership. This does not mean the industry is in any danger of having to say goodbye to TV spots. We just see it as TV’s role in media plans changing. Increasing targeting and buying capabilities across CTV is making the space start to resemble paid social from 5-10 years ago. Expect TV to evolve into a more personalized and less mass-reach channel. The growth of ad-supported streaming is an interesting area and the recent launch of ads across Amazon Prime has gotten our attention, alongside account-sharing crackdowns on Netflix. All of this boils down to understanding who your audiences are and how they consume media.”

Eric Soloway, head of production, Clickon: “Super Bowl commercials have become a genre of their own, evolving beyond their commercial origins to become a powerful platform for societal change, education, and inspiration. This cultural phenomenon, eagerly anticipated by millions, transcends traditional advertising boundaries, blending humor, storytelling, and high production values. This transformative evolution in TV advertising necessitates a reimagined approach to both format and creative ethos. Dove’s Super Bowl campaign on body positivity and the empowerment of young female athletes exemplifies this shift. It sparked a critical conversation on body confidence, demonstrating the role media and advertising play in shaping societal perceptions and realities. Similarly, the NFLs ad for the International Player Pathway Program went beyond mere sports marketing to deliver a compelling narrative on diversity, inclusion, and the global spirit of football. Brands are using their Super Bowl ads to advocate for societal progress, offering a blueprint for how future advertising can resonate more profoundly with audiences by integrating meaningful messages with creative storytelling.”

Future of TV Agency Leadership Social Media

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