Little Grey Cells #3… It’s time for an end of the TV-versus-internet argument

* Tess Alps is the CEO of Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV, and avid campaigner for the end of the TV-versus-Internet argument. She spares a few moments to engage with her Little Grey Cells

I like lots of media other than TV
Yes, both as a consumer and as a marketing professional. But I do this job because I have a strong sense of injustice; no medium is more undervalued or misrepresented than TV. It’s a mission.

TV, not the TV
That’s what I represent and care about. The cultural importance of that professionally produced content can’t be overstated and it needs serious money to maintain the quality and range we currently enjoy. I couldn’t care less what technology delivers it or what screen you watch it on.

The internet is not a medium
It’s more important than that and more like electricity. It’s a transforming technology that can change and improve many things. Search is a medium, email marketing is a medium and as such competitors to TV advertising. But the internet is not a competitor.

Is the internet is the best thing that’s ever happened to TV?
I could make a jolly good case. Search and social give instant proof of TV’s impact. TV advertising is becoming even more effective in part because of instant search and online purchasing. And then of course TV itself isexpanding through online distribution.

TV: the original social medium?
I championed, set up and oversaw PHD’s interactive division, PHDiQ, from 2001. I could always see its potential. But I didn’t really immerse myself personally until 2004 when I discovered the online communities for an amazing Channel 4 comedy called Green Wing back in 2004. No-one I knew was watching it but I was desperate to share my enthusiasm and to air my theories about it.

I’m campaigning against the word ‘digital’
It’s not fit for purpose and particularly confusing when it comes to TV. In the UK, broadcast TV is 100% digital, but nothing to do with the internet. It also keeps people in an incoherent silo.

The word ‘still’ also drives me mad

People think they are being nice when they say ‘people still watch a lot of TV’ or TV advertising still works”. Still is the word you use for a 90-year-old who can walk upstairs.

There are still a few internet ‘fundamentalists’ out there

You know, the nutters who wish death on anything that isn’t delivered by the internet. They’re disappearing fast, but I love a good argument so I shall probably miss them a bit. Mind you, it would be a better contest if they could get their facts right before picking a fight.

1st or 2nd screen?

Some people get upset when TV is described as the 1st screen, or the ‘lead’ medium. If you are doing your homework online with the TV on then I wouldn’t call that 2-screening; it’s just multi-tasking. But when people are doing something that links the two screens then I think it’s always the TV that catalyses the activity on the other device, hence 1st screen or lead medium. It’s about chronology not status.

If you’re worried about the future of advertising ask teenagers
Just go onto the street and stop young people and ask them what their favourite ad is. More than 99% of the time it will be a TV ad. However much they love social media they don’t love – or recall – the ads there.

Accountabilty is not the same as effectiveness

TV ads work better than ever and than anything, but are not easy to track. Worth taking the time to analyse properly though…

TV is the word of choice

New words for new forms of TV are seductive but we always have to go back to ‘TV’ when we talk to consumers. Google TV, Apple TV – not ‘video’. It’s an aspirational word that conveys quality. There’ll be loads more video around but it won’t all be worthy of being called TV.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
Technology is revolutionising TV delivery. But human beings don’t change much. They like stories, and sharing and someone to take the hard work out of choosing. That should all mean that linear live TV via channels has a strong future, but with lots of additional TV in new places, on new devices at new times.

When it comes to books on marketing
You can’t beat The Origin of Species. Survival of the fittest has nothing to do with going to the gym; it’s about adaptability. TV is adapting well. Evolution is unplanned – a series of random mutations, some of which prove to be beneficial. We need to make enough space and time in our businesses for some random mutation, and encourage creative serendipity. Who knows what joys will come out of it.

Tess Alps tweets here, more information about Thinkbox here

Monty (624 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.