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How the changing face of television is affecting consumer behaviour

The ongoing development of the way in which the consumer views the world’s ever-shifting scenarios is ensuring equal attention to marketing channels.

And TV viewing is one of the fastest-changing advances in technology.

It wasn’t that long ago when children were being warned that they would develop ‘square eyes’ if they watched too much television. Since those exciting days when the striped screen saver heralded some excited anticipation, screens have changed in size, in bulk – and in audience. As to whether or not the shape of our eyes has changed … well, that’s debatable!

What is confirmed, however, is that TV, as we have known it for many years, is undergoing a rapid and exciting metamorphosis, from the cathode ray tube used until the advent of flat screens, to the development of ‘smart’ television.

And this development has affected messaging to target markets, with intelligent campaigns including this vital source of communication.

‘By creating interactive, relevant campaigns for Smart TV, brands can more easily track the influence of their content and measure engagement and resulting actions,’ said Shirlene Chandrapal, SVP of Connected TV at smartclip.

Just what is TV?
TV, of course, is the shortened, everyday use of the word ‘television’ (from Ancient Greek t??e (tèle), meaning ‘far’, and Latin visio, meaning ‘sight’- Source: Wikipedia), attributed to Constantin Perskyi in 1900 to describe the exciting centrepiece of almost every lounge. Where in the past huddling around the radio was the focal point of the family communication (we see it often in WW2 broadcasts), a few years after the war ended the same families were crowded around a tall wooden box containing a screen, with the adventures of The Lone Ranger and Robin Hood vying with romantic comedies – all in black and white and all allowing the viewer a few hours of imaginative relaxation.

It’s incredible to think that in a relatively short space of time the development of consumer viewing has demanded the growth of the instrument used. The wooden box made room for bulky, mass-produced plastic sets; the advent of colour expanded the quality and quantity of programs, with popular series gaining their own dedicated audience; TVs became portable with ‘bunny’ aerials; they grew larger and flatter, with the more affluent amongst us boasting cinema-style lounges; and the introduction of the video/DVD player signalled the demise of the cinema’s popularity.

Marketing to the masses
Whereas the radio had carried advertising messages via popular jingles, TV allowed for mass visual marketing. Advertisers could show their clients’ products to a captive audience relaxing in their homes. Agencies were formed to promote this exciting phenomenon, with the most successful broadcasting consumer products from high-end cars to alcohol to cleaning products.

One of the problems, however, was that the cost of a TV advertising campaign became prohibitive, and those with a healthy advertising budget relied on repetitive adverts to justify the financial outlay.

Another development was the changing attitude of the consumer markets. ‘Content marketing’ had been around for many years in many different guises: however, with the new speed of communication via social media, the desire for genuine, interactive messaging meant that TV advertising became less of a focus and social media channels – including YouTube and Facebook – began to be the consumer marketing conduits of choice.

And the threat grew
One of the biggest game-changers is the internet. Those for whom the news and/or the weather were watched avidly while drinking the first coffee of the morning (what is it with having to know what the weather’s going to do?), are now often scrolling through the daily headlines while downloading e-mails.

And how many of us have been hooked by weekly TV programs, not wanting to wait for the next episode? Take The Game of Thrones, for example. Rarely since Dallas has the world been so addicted to a series. The vampires and werewolves that captured the hearts of many pre-pubescent teenagers (and their mothers) came close, but the creators of GoT have caught the imaginations of millions to the point of obsession with their unpredictable, often violent depiction of family feuds. So much so that viewers don’t wait for the next weekly show – they download future episodes. (See Tom Ingoldby’s blog). At least with Dallas, companies who paid premium rates to show every Tuesday evening (in South Africa, anyway!) were guaranteed a viewing.

What does the future hold?
‘As audiences fragment and competition increases, commercial television is in the fight of its life’ is the introductory statement made on Media Watch (March 2015) by Paul Barry when he interviewed David Gyngell, CEO of Network Nine. They were discussing the demise of TV as we have known it for many years, and according to Gyngell, the future of TV looked bleak.

In the US, the threat is from ‘streaming services like Stan, Presto, Quickflix and the US giant Netflix which has signed up 57 million customers around the world and plans to spend $3 billion this year on content.’ One of the problems is that these communication channels are giving the consumer a choice of high quality films and drama for only $10 a month, and the consumer has a choice of accessing these on their TV or on any mobile device.

At present, there is a debate as to whether or not apps are the future of TV.

Apple has produced the exciting new Apple TV and while previewing it, CEO Tim Cook emphasised that – in his opinion – the future of television is apps, as ‘through an app, you realise how much better [TV] can be. You can search for what you want and watch it when and where you want. And you can interact with it in powerful new ways.’

This opinion is supported by Hayley Tsukayama of The Washington Post who wrote an article entitled New Apple TV: If the Future of Television Is Apps, Sign Me Up. She reviewed the Apple TV ahead of the launch, and was impressed, particularly with the ease of online shopping and the impressive Siri-powered voice search.

Although she felt the fact that the Apple TV doesn’t support 4K video, she certainly feels that ‘Apple is certainly making some headway with changing the way consumers can interact with their television sets.’

However, in an essay published in October 2015 in Tech.pinions Arthur Greenwald, Producer and Consultant at Greenwald Media, has a different point of view when it comes to the future of TV – and he certainly doesn’t think it is apps.

Greenwald maintains that although ‘streaming services, mobile devices and DVRs have taken a toll on same-day viewing and related ad revenue, that predictable decline has been slow enough for the networks to experiment with other revenue streams’, with lucrative deals negotiated with a ‘combination of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.’ Hulu is in fact owned by NBC Universal, Disney ABC and Fox. Morgan Stanley of Netflix ‘spends nearly twice as much licensing shows from the broadcast networks as they do on all their original programs combined.’

In October, Colin Dixon discussed another debate raging on the future of linear TV. Head of content at Netflix, Ted Sarandos, declared while speaking at a summit on the evolution of television viewing that ‘In 10 years… it will be entirely delivered on the Internet. It will be a series of apps that’s closer to what you see on smart TV. I don’t think it will be delivered on cable, and I don’t think it will be linear.’ Dixon discusses the views of those who disagree with this pronouncement, one of which is the need for ‘background noise’.

In South Africa, Matthew Thackrah, Deputy MD and Head of Consumer Electronics and IT Solutions at Samsung had warned already in 2013 – when promoting the latest Samsung Smart TV – that ‘With many South Africans starting to get used to the idea of watching content online, television manufacturers need to find innovative ways of providing consumers with the best of both worlds.’

New components of smart TVs include voice control and facial recognition, allowing each member of a family to enjoy his/her own entertainment tastes. With the ease of internet upgrades, the whole family will sit together in front of one TV. Thackrah also emphasised the benefits for business organisations, with collaboration and video-conferencing made easy.

What does the consumer research say?
Suppliers and marketers can provide a plethora of views and opinions, but it’s what the end-market thinks that really matters. Interestingly, in 2013 Helen Leggatt reported that ‘Smart TV is making headway, with both consumers and advertisers. New research reveals the power of interactive ads on Smart TV and the positive attitude users have towards ads on their device.’

Research from smartclip and LG Electronics in 2013 concluded that ’79 per cent of Smart TV users are between 25 and 49 years old. Smart TV users are not only the young target group that is difficult to reach via traditional TV, they are also well-educated and affluent family people who are of maximum relevance for advertising.’

How will this affect marketing strategies?
The emphasis on content marketing has already changed the face of consumer communication. The consumer isn’t interested in being told what to buy….there has to be a story built around the product, with the consumer made to feel a part of it. Reactions are instant, with negative responses going viral in a split second.

To appeal to the markets for whom Smart TVs are an important part of communication, integrated strategies would do well to include this fast-developing area.

Article written by Gareth Moll:
Gareth Moll is founder and CEO of GroundUp Media. The company’s visual projects for high-end clients have won recognition both within the industry and through awards such as the National Small Business Champion Award in 2012. Its market knowledge has ensured clients are kept abreast of the latest trends. Offering an integrated visual experience from aerial videography and photography using the latest technology, to animation, photo-conferencing and social media campaigns, GroundUp Media will ‘take your idea and elevate it – from the ground up!’

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