Iam awash in uncertainty. I present a transcript of a talk I had with myself the other day:
Question: Is traditional TV advertising nearing its demise?
Answer: Don’t know.
Question: Will Internet and cell-phone TV replace traditional TV any day now?
Answer: Beats me.
Question: Is print advertising ready to give up the ghost because newspaper and magazine readership keeps falling?
Answer: Can’t say for sure.
Question: When digital TV becomes the law of the land in 2009, will advertisers lose millions of viewers who still have analog TV sets?
Answer: Seems like it to me, but I’m not entirely positive.
That’s where I stand, which amounts to not standing at all.
The root of this uncertainty is the conflicting information I read every day about the future of media and, as a result, the future of marketing.
Ad bloggers and ad experts have predicted the demise of traditional TV spots for years. Yet TV ad spending rose 5.3 percent last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, and accounted for nearly 44 percent of all ad spending in 2006.
Network and cable TV stations are making their shows available on cell phones and the Internet, and I’ve read that those media are oh-so-close to giving the boot to traditional TV.
But then Nielsen Media Research reports that consumers spent more time watching conventional TV in 2006 than they did in 2005. They increased their viewing by 20 minutes a week.
Now let’s turn to print advertising. Magazines have been closing and newspapers keep laying people off because of poor ad sales, but ad spending in consumer magazines rose 4.6 percent last year, according to TNS.
Newspaper advertising did drop 2.4 percent, but just peruse Jim Romenesko’s media website and you’ll read stories about newspaper executives vowing that print is strong and will never die.
Color me confused.
The situation seems a little clearer when it comes to the changeover to all-digital TV in 2009. About 36 million people still watch TV the old-fashioned way, without cable hookups or satellite dishes. When broadcasters switch to digital signals in three years, those viewers will be left with blank screens.
Or maybe not. The federal government plans to distribute coupons for digital converter boxes, enabling them to watch TV as they always have.
No one knows how many people will do that. If only a small portion does, advertisers stand to lose a sizable number of viewers.
I suppose my uncertainty on these matters is merely a reflection of the uncertainty in the media industry and among marketing experts, bloggers and fellow scribblers.
No one can say with any precision what fate awaits traditional TV advertising, print ads or even TV itself.
This will not sound profound—actually, it’s trite—but marketers will use the media that work best for them.
That’s why traditional TV won’t die. As long as there’s a demand for it from marketers, it will be available as an ad medium. The same is true for radio, billboards, cell phones, iPods, video games, movies and social-network websites.
Changes in print and TV platforms, however, would force marketers to target customers more narrowly, but that’s better than trying to reach masses that are not interested in your message.
By necessity, creative content would become more relevant to consumers.
On the alternative-media front, marketers will continue to find customers willing to opt in to their mobile ads or e-mail blasts, and nothing beats an audience that actually desires your marketing message.
That’s the future of marketing and media. I think.