Is TV advertising more effective than before?

There is a curious article in the current issue of BrandWeek that says a new ARF study shows TV advertising is as effective as ever, “if not more so”

Curious because this flies in the face of other studies from the ARF.  And it flies in the face of what marketers believe.  The other data that we’ve seen shows that advertising effectiveness has been declining in the past few years.  

So is TV advertising as effective as it was?  

I have not been able to find the study, so I am relying on the reporting.  I am making the assumption that the article is reasonably accurate.  My assumption is reinforced by the fact that the ARF has posted the article online and Joel, the ARF’s chief strategy officer, didn’t made any clarifications on his blog.

The data for this study was gathered over a period of 18 years, from 1990 to 2008.  That was the first red flag for me.  For more than half of that time the internet was a very limited platform for advertising.  Broadband was very limited.   Without seeing the data broken down by years, it is difficult to assess the validity of the claim.

The measure for effectiveness that is mentioned in the article is awareness.  That was the second red flag.  Awareness used to be highly correlated with market share.  So the more you spent on tv advertising, the higher your awareness and the higher your market share.  But that relationship has fallen apart in the past few years.  

The importance of awareness has dropped dramatically.  Sure your audience needs to be aware of your brand.  But how they become aware can be done without TV advertising.  Google is perhaps exhibit one in a brand having nearly universal awareness without running tv advertising.  

So by the standards of the study (as reported) — data reaching back 18 years and awareness as the key measure of effectiveness — TV is indeed effective.  As we have seen, those assumptions are questionable.

On the other hand, TV advertising is still the best way to reach the biggest audience in this country.  There is no question about that.  And TV is not going away any time soon.  TV didn’t kill radio.  And the internet won’t kill TV.  There will be great TV ads and there will be lousy TV ads.  While predicting the future is always an uncertain act, there is good reason to believe that the dominance of TV advertising will continue to erode over time.

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