Youth Audiences And The Death Of The TV Ad

Youth Audiences And The Death Of The TV Ad

If one trend has dominated and defined the marketing communications business over the past decade and more, it is the declining influence of traditional media, and the explosive rise of digital.

For free-to-air TV, the explosion of competing screens, social platforms, streaming and gaming options confirms this. As does the apparent upheaval in the TV business as they try to adapt and respond. We’ve also seen quality drama and sport content moving to pay-per-view and streaming platforms where the audience is in control.

If you are a university or education marketer targeting the youth audience, the case against TV becomes even more convincing. Forget all the hand wringing about ‘Millenials’: they’re old fogeys now. You’re chasing the ‘Gen Z’ 16 year old, who was born in or after 2000!

You’ll have been told how this generation is defined by miniscule attention spans, little patience, and incredible cynicism about advertising. Youth marketing orthodoxy prescribes a ‘culturally conversant’ approach, operating in digital and social mediums, engaging with participatory campaigns that encourage co-creation and sharing.

It is a sound theory, and it can work. But when it comes to mass marketing, is it the only approach? Or the most effective?

Old-fashioned TV remains as expensive as ever. It is also way less targeted. Then there are the production costs. And it has none of the interaction, or apparent hard data measurability of the new digital channels.

But does that mean TV is inferior?

Australians on average spend about 105 hours per month watching video content across all screens. Despite what you might have been led to believe, the television set accounts for about 85% of this. This number has hardly changed for five years by the way.

That’s great you say, but what about the youthful audiences? The Millenials and Gen-Z, they’re the digital natives, right?

The best data available says TV is reaching 70% of 18-24 year olds, and 74% of 24-35 year olds. And about 59% of their total video content viewing happens on a good old TV set. The other 41% is split across the phone, tablet, and laptop.

Sure, they seem to watch a little less TV than us older folks. But 70%+ reach, and 59% of total viewing time is still a dominant number.

Especially when you consider the unparalleled story telling power of TV.

There has been a lot of hype in recent times about digital video. Too much, in my opinion. I am not arguing that it is not powerful and relevant. But think for a minute about the quality of a 30-second pre-roll ‘view’ in a tablet, phone or laptop environment. How many do you watch through to the end? Do you even have the sound on? The truth is, you are usually in an active search for something else, in a media where you expect instant results – interruptions are not welcome.

How does a digital video ‘view’ compare to one received on the couch, with the big screen 55” Panasonic and quality sound? In this is relaxed, passive viewing environment, a decent TV ad would be 50+ times (my metric) more impactful and memorable than a silent pre-roll interruption on your phone.

So why are modern marketers increasingly reticent to use TV?

The industry press, and conferences, have outsized obsession with the shiny new media, and give free reign to industry spruikers predicting the death of ‘traditional’ media. TV, the whale of big, expensive ‘traditional’ media, is regularly depicted as unimaginative, wasteful, out-dated, and out-of-touch.

Marketers are thus strongly encouraged to drink from the ‘fountain of future’ that is digital, and (come on, admit it) also have a tendency to experience extreme career FOMO when not participating in the latest big digital trend.

Don’t get me wrong. Digital has rightly become integral to just about every communications task today.

It’s just that when it comes to mass-audience, big-screen story telling, nothing matches the power of TV.

And another thing. Don’t be too worried about those other screens TV viewers are simultaneously browsing. I see them as an opportunity to create your ‘TV+’ multi-screen strategy, with seamless digital integration limited only by your imagination and budget.

I know it is unfashionable to say this. But don’t believe the hype just yet. TV remains the greatest mass story telling medium, and by a long shot. And it can be more powerful than ever when part of a fully integrated, multi-screen communications strategy.