WHAT’S THE CAPITAL CITY OF MEDIA?
Once it was print, then radio, then TV. Is it digital now?
Asking to identify the best performing channel in advertising is akin to asking what the capital of the world is. Is it cosmopolitan New York? Commercial powerhouse Beijing? Or, perhaps, progressive Amsterdam?
It’s a subjective question, loaded with myriad factors of influence. And it changes as the world evolves.
Print, radio and television have all had their turn at the pinnacle of advertising. Although the dates vary from nation to nation, the golden age of newspapers is generally accepted to have run between 1830 and 1930, a period during which the channel had a veritable monopoly on the distribution of information. The 1930s saw the mainstream introduction of radio, and this channel then basked in the golden glow for about two decades.
Until recently, the centre of the advertising universe was undoubtedly the television screen. It generated the most money, commanded a massive audience and integrated its way into popular culture through quirky catchphrases and delightfully entertaining characters. Its influence was second to none and it served as a fluid creative canvas with limitless potential (there’s a reason Mad Men concluded with a TVC).
Like any great empire, television’s reign is increasingly threatened by a bolshie newcomer who does not obey the existing rules. And for television, this has come in the shape of the digital channel.
If economics is a constant battle for the means of production, then advertising dominance depends entirely on who controls distribution. And digital has, for the first time, democratised the means of distribution, making it possible for anyone with a computer and a few minutes of time to publish content.
This year, we saw a watershed moment in the digital revolution as the IAB’S ad figures showed interactive spend had for the first time overtaken television.
Under normal circumstances, this would’ve seen digital crowned the powerful channel in adland. But, in the words of Ben Goldacre, I think you’ll find it’s more complicated than that.
This complication manifested itself this year when the ASA could not release its overall ad spend figures on account of bickering between the various channels about where different kinds of spend should be attributed.
The argument here is that the lines between channels are blurring and it’s become difficult to assign spend to certain channels in exclusion. Invariably, the word ‘integration’ is peppered through these discussions, with the general consensus being that multiple media channels have melded together—especially in instances when a single media company owns properties across a number of channels.
However, integration remains more of an objective than an actual reflection of an industry that remains quite divided along traditional lines.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the fact the Canon Media Awards and New Zealand Radio Awards occurred on the same night this year, the former in the capital and the latter in Auckland (“so much for convergence”, observed one Twitter user).
It’s also worth noting that all the traditional players still have independent bodies that lobby for their category. They celebrate their victories and fiercely defend their ground when attacked by criticism.
This is not to say that the local integration effort is failing. There have been some brilliant local campaigns seamlessly woven across numerous channels. However, these still only account for a small portion of the overall spend—which in turn means that integration is one of many factors to be taken into account when gauging the effectiveness of a channel.
While there are countless other factors that could’ve been taken into account, the NZ Marketing Media Momentum Index asked a selected panel of independent experts—consisting of media agency heads, creative directors and marketers—to score channel performance across five categories: adaptability, measurement, return on investment, buoyancy (or cool factor), and cut-through.
Of course, this isn’t an exact science, but it does help to give a gauge on how traditional channels are performing and how marketers perceive them in what is undoubtedly the most complex media environment in history.
So, in coming back to the question of what the capital of advertising is in the modern era—well, as it turns out, that really depends.