Is TV Dead? Ask Google.

Andre Moreira​, Executive Creative Director at The&Partnership London, on the current state of TV advertising.

Let’s start by rewinding all the way back to May 2009.


Google Chrome has launched only a few months ago and is struggling to provide serious competition to rival browsers, such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox (a meagre 1.4% was Chrome’s market share at the time). People are desperate, radical thinking is needed. From the corner of a Google Campus meeting room, someone gathers the courage to say:


‘What if we run a TV ad?’


As legend goes (actually it’s in Google’s Official Blog), Google’s Japan team had produced, independently, a fun video to demonstrate how clean and simple the Chrome interface was in comparison to its main rivals (it’s actually quite nice, check it out here). After releasing it on the web, it had received lots of positive feedback giving the decision makers back at the ranch just enough confidence – i.e. data – and production efficiencies – i.e. a free ad – to give it a go, and buy some TV media for the very first time.


Imagine how weird it must have felt for such a digital behemoth to ditch their convictions, even if just for that one time, regarding the power and effectiveness of Search and Digital Advertising and run a traditional TV ad! But something must have worked, because very soon after, ‘Parisian Love’ (still a great idea) was released just in time for the Superbowl.


Ten years, and billions of dollars later, Google has become a regular amongst the Top 10 TV advertisers worldwide (alongside other huge tech brands such as Amazon, Netflix, Apple…)

Algorithm says no, but how about the gut?

Ok Google, back to the initial question... ‘Is TV Dead?’


Well, if you do type the question into the engine’s iconic search bar (give it a go, I’ll wait…) most results state that TV is dead, or dying (with notable exceptions). It’s the current perceived wisdom, reflected into search rankings. However, when it comes to actual money on the table, the company’s algorithms suggest exactly the opposite.


Now, I don’t have access to the data that Google is using to make such decisions, but I do know they have a lot of it, of high quality, plus reams of brain & processing power constantly analysing it. Meaning, despite my personal experience pointing to the contrary (I don’t watch that much live television) enough people must be watching enough TV ads, in order for Google to invest in them. Which brings me to my second point — if such data giants spend so much on the medium screen (I guess you can’t call it small anymore?) why is the rest of the ad world so cynical about doing exactly the same? I’ve hinted at the answer already.


Instinct nudges in the opposite way and, despite all the talk about Big Data, ‘The Gut’ still speaks loudly in our industry. As a result, too many marketers and agency people alike, over the past decade, have used their own viewing behaviour and that of their industry friends, to make media decisions and predictions that wildly underestimate the reach, the impact and the longevity of TV advertising despite the mountain of data showing that marketers are far more digital, and far less likely to go home and turn on a TV, than the average consumer — and, as Marketing’s bad boy Mark Ritson likes to point out, marketers are not the market.


(...and the same goes for agency people)


The reality is, in most countries, TV remains the dominant source of video.

For example, for British people of all demographics, it accounted for 71% of our video consumption and a whopping 95% of ad viewing time last year (check the data here).

Clearly the new generation of video on-demand (VOD) options are increasingly popular but TV, in both its live and playback formats, remains dominant for most consumers.

Even the so-called millennials spent more time watching video on TV in 2017 than they did on YouTube, Facebook and all the subscription VOD players such as Netflix combined!

Yes, none of this fits with my daily routines, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years is to read a pie chart, and appreciate that my own personal behaviours are not representative of the world at large (it’d be a very boring world otherwise…)

A world of ‘&’

So, we have established that, at least according to Google’s media buying algorithms, TV is NOT dead — which means it’s about time we ask the much more relevant question of ‘How to use TV’, don’t you think? Well, I work for The&Partnership and there’s a clue in the name.


In our view, we are living in a world of ‘&’, not ‘or’.


If you want your brand to get the love & attention it deserves, don’t use TV — use TV & Social, or Radio & Mobile, or TV & Print & Digital &… but definitely not TV ‘or’ x, y, or z.


We are not in charge of what people look at — they are.


It’s time we start going where they’re looking, rather than insisting they come look at us.