Villing & Company

The end is near: The impending death of TV advertising

I’ll admit it. I’m pretty old school. I rarely record TV programs. Oh, I’ve got good excuses. Much of my preferred viewing falls into the category of live news and sports. And I am a marketing communications practitioner so I need to view TV commercials. For professional education, of course.

Frankly, though, I have a very dim view of the commercials I view. Thanks to the wonderful folks who brought us Citizens United, all those political ads will be the death of me – and ultimately, I fear, the death of TV advertising. If the nastiness and half truths don’t do us in, the brain-numbing repetition will overkill all of us.

Of course, it’s not just political advertising. If I see one more new car clearance sale ad, I may be inclined to re-enact the iconic scene from the movie, Network. I am, indeed, getting mad as hell.

Then, there are the ubiquitous local car dealer ads. Long of questionable value, they have only gotten louder and more obnoxious. And don’t get me started on the use of identical spots within the same advertising pod – a tactic that makes no sense strategically or economically. Not to be out-done, other retailers have joined in the mindless cacophony – as have advertisers in a host of other industries.

Whatever happened to smart advertising? Advertising that was strategic. And thoughtful. And created to make a positive emotional connection to the consumer. Advertising that was relevant, not simply repetitive.

As I make these laments about the state of contemporary TV advertising, I feel obliged to call out not only the advertisers and their agencies or other creative services providers. I’m also looking at you, Mr. and Mrs. Television Executive, whose first obligation is, I believe, to your viewers. Not that you are allowed to censor bad advertising, but rather than taking the money and running to the nearest bank, you should consider the merits of taking a stronger stand against advertising practices that ultimately devalue your core product. 

Like I said, I am old school. So old that I feel no shame in quoting Howard Gossage, a famous ad man from the 1950s. This is what he had to say about the role of advertising and media:

“The buying of time or space is not the taking out of a hunting license on someone else's private preserve but is the renting of a stage on which we may perform.”

It’s as true today as it was in Gossage’s day. The role of a media outlet is to provide content that educates, entertains and informs its viewers. Once that fundamental value proposition has been sufficiently diminished, the golden goose of advertising-funded television will be cooked.

Filed Under: advertising

Villing & Company

Villing & Co
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130 S Main St, Suite 315
South Bend IN 46601

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