TV advertising is growing in volume, but declining in value

Debnath Guharoy, Consultant

While every medium has the innate ability to engage and entertain the audience, most people would agree that there is none more capable than television.

In a country where almost everybody watches the small screen almost everyday, it's no surprise that the overwhelming share of the advertising rupiah is spent on television. By advertising industry estimates for 2006, measured media like TV, print and radio accounted for over Rp 12 trillion in real expenditure, after accounting for discounts and bonus spots.

Educated guesses for media not measured, like billboards, bus panels, promotions, direct mail and sampling would add another Rp 6 trillion to round off the industry at over Rp 18 trillion in 2006.

Television alone would have attracted just under half of this investment in products and services, but with a share well over 60 percent of measured media. As one medium among many, it continues to each year grow in terms of rupiah.

Yet, in the opinion of the viewers at large, the power of the advertisements within the medium is steadily declining year after year.

In three years, the number of people who "find TV advertising interesting" has gradually declined from 73 percent of viewers to 67 percent. In the same period, the number of people who believed that "TV advertising often gives me something to talk about" has dipped from 43 percent to 36 percent.

As a whole, the advertising industry is on a slippery slope. All concerned, media owners and buyers, advertisers and agencies should take heed. For if this trend continues, more money will be spent each year to achieve less in the minds of the audience.

These conclusions are based on Roy Morgan Single Source, the country's largest syndicated survey used by more marketers, media and creative agencies than any other study. With over 27,000 Indonesian respondents annually, it is projected to reflect 90 percent of the population over the age of 14. That is a universe of 140 million people. The results are updated every 90 days.

Departing from hard facts and entering the realm of opinion and interpretation, consider the opinion of an advertising man turned researcher and consultant. The view isn't pretty.

There are several reasons for the malaise and the remedies aren't easy to administer. Over the years, insensitive tests have convinced clients that any advertising is better than no advertising, that branding is vital, that visibility is more important than any other facet of communication.

These are beliefs that are hard to argue against and nobody should waste any time debating them.

But in the hands of inexperienced and incapable brand custodians who cannot tell the difference between a good idea and a bad one, these beliefs become blunt instruments with which to beat even the best of creative minds.

How many judges of great ideas do we individually know? It is equally true that creative geniuses are a rare breed, with big ideas a rare treat put up for consideration in the first place.

Today, the chain of command is focussed on short-term goals not long-term objectives, with pressure from shareholders rapidly traveling through the corridors of corporate power down to the brand manager.

That heat is passed on to the agencies to deliver results, and to deliver now. Growth, in volume and share, is the only mission and everything else can be sacrificed at its altar. Careers are built on that belief.

Together, order-givers and order-takers are perpetuating a slavish culture of "show me the money". As long as the immediate goals for the company's bottomline are met, it doesn't seem to matter if one of its brands cannibalizes another or if brand equity measures actually dip.

Shareholders here today and gone tomorrow cannot tell the difference and don't really care. Why should they, as long as the stock is looking good on the bourse? Stakeholders looking to move on to their next promotion no longer seem to care, either.

Gone are the days of teamwork between each individual member of the team, building a brand together by balancing long-term objectives with short-term goals. Mutual respect and trust, between client and agency, continues to decline.

Despite these realities, a good idea does surface occasionally, to the pleasant surprise of all concerned, including the all-important viewer.

The writing is on the wall, regardless of self-congratulatory industry awards. Advertisers, media agencies, creative agencies, researchers, as well as the owners of the TV stations, all need to work towards a holistic resurrection.

Paying homage to insensitive test scores and 10-city TV ratings cannot be the basis of building brands. One of the hallmarks of a great idea is that it lives in the mind of the audience well beyond the last insertion.

They are the kind of ideas that help quality products and services build long-term relationships with customers.

Fewer commercials that treat the viewer as a moron, more ideas that engage the audience in shorter commercial breaks and within program content, should all help repair the damage done.

The writer can be contacted at
_________________________ Indonesian Business and Investment News Aggregator