Mediatel’s Steven Scaffardi speaks with key
figures from the broadcast media world to discuss how they have dealt with the
coronavirus crisis – and what comes next for commercial TV
Steven Scaffardi (Chair): Good
afternoon and welcome everybody to this special virtual roundtable debate for
the Future of TV Advertising UK fortnight.
With us we have Sarah Jones (Director of Planning, Sky Media), Kate
McVeigh (Vice President, International Client Strategy &
Development, CNBC International), Rob Bradley (Senior Vice
President, CNN International Commercial), Matt Salmon, Sales
Director, Channel 4), Lindsey Clay (CEO, Thinkbox), Mark
Trinder (Director of Commercial Sales and Partnerships, ITV) and Christian
Kurz (Senior Vice President, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom CBS).
Let’s get down to it and start
with you Lindsey. As the CEO of the marketing body for the main UK commercial
TV broadcasters, what has impressed you the most with how TV has reacted to the
Lindsey Clay: The speed, the positivity, and the creativity. The broadcasters have
been swift to adapt their schedules and rise to the challenge. We have seen TV’s
creativity at its broadest, from initiatives on mental health and the clap for
carers, to a brilliant Saturday Night Takeaway with no audience, chat and news
shows shot from home, classic sport reinvigorated, and Jamie Oliver helping us
to keep cooking and carry on.
(Chair): And the same question to the rest of the panel,
starting at home here in the UK with ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. How do you think
the broadcasters have reacted?
Mark Trinder: I think UK Television has reacted brilliantly. Be that programming,
news, editorial decisions, scheduling, balancing the loss of programmes with
creating new and bringing back favourites, accommodating advertiser challenges
with great flexibility, incentives and creativity.
Matt Salmon: I’m constantly impressed by the power TV in the UK has not only to
entertain but to inform, educate and ultimately change behaviour. At times of
national crisis TV, and especially public service broadcasting takes on a
unique role in our society – for Channel 4 that means that now more than ever
we must ensure we our speaking to the audiences we were created to serve.
Sarah Jones:From a Sky perspective, we are seeing a huge increase in news consumption
across all platforms and all demographics – Sky news linear is up over 150%
year on year, and across the month of March we had 130m news video views on
This agility has
also transcended into the TV advertising space too. Despite the industry
working from their kitchens and bedrooms, we’ve kept brands on air, commercial
schedules have been filled, and we have produced new creative executions for
brands looking to deliver more relevant messaging and got them on air within a
matter of days.
(Chair): What learnings can we take from broadcasters from
around the world too, and what have the likes of CNN, CNBC and Viacom been
doing in reaction to the pandemic?
Rob Bradley:International news organisations have an important role to report on
developments and share information that can help stop the spread of COVID-19 –
this applies to our TV output of course, but also across the wider ecosystem of
platforms where we are publishing content.
particularly important to have trusted news sources to turn to because of the
danger of misinformation growing exponentially during the current crisis –
latest research from Ofcom shows that half of the people in the UK have come
across false or misleading information about COVID-19.
stories and ill-informed advice shared on social media and in private messaging
groups can literally cost lives, so it’s essential that people can rely on a
trusted news brand for news and information.
McVeigh: I’ve always
been a believer in the power of TV, and have loved how trusted news networks,
locally and internationally, have provided comfort and information to their
audiences during this period of uncertainty. These are unprecedented times and
I am continually impressed by the commitment of our journalists and the
production teams to covering these stories at risk to themselves, ensuring that
the audience demand for trusted content is met.
Kurz: I continue to be impressed with
how quickly and creatively productions have been adapted to meet the demands of
the current crisis. We are seeing more news programs and entertainment specials
that are being produced remotely, such as “One World: Together at Home,” which
aired globally on ViacomCBS’ networks.
The creativity and
flexibility we have seen on the part of production companies, crews and talent
is impressive. Wherever you look, the audience is at the center of
considerations, and the TV industry is continuing to inform and entertain
during this tough time.
(Chair): We have mentioned that many shows are being
recorded straight from the presenter’s homes, which truly reflects the mantra
of “The show must go on” but is Stephen Allan (Worldwide Chairman and CEO of
MediaCom) correct in his assessment that the lack of new content being created
during lockdown will lead to the “perfect storm” for broadcasters?
Mark Trinder: On one hand Coronation Street and Emmerdale have had to cease
production, but we produce a number of weeks ahead and have reduced weekly
episode transmission to 3 each versus 6 (per programme) so we’re hopeful that
we can cover this period. Live programming and planned audience participation
programmes are on hold and of course all Sport is currently cancelled or
postponed. On the other hand – The ‘virtual Grand National’ had an audience of
4.3m and raised £2.6m for the NHS.
Christian Kurz: Across the board, we’re seeing audiences tune-in across our linear
and streaming platforms, with ratings and share of viewing on the rise.
to supporting our audiences who are impacted by COVID-19 through our global
relief efforts, public awareness campaigns and dedicated programming, as well
what we call our “adaptive creativity” – in other words, our agile approach to
creating and delivering content in this uniquely challenging environment.
Salmon: This crisis is
undoubtedly having an impact on our revenues and as an ad-funded broadcaster,
our schedule, which is why we have announced a range of financial measures to
help us through this difficult period. Ian and the team have said quite clearly
there are a number of productions that have been delayed and some which
regrettably will not be happening.
But we remain
confident we will continue to have a range of high quality programming on offer
over the year for our viewers and advertisers – we’ve already announced and in
some cases aired a number of brand new commissions – the key here is to
continue to respond to our audience needs in the unique way that only Channel 4
can – which I believe we are doing and will continue to do.
Jones: Aside from the
obvious gap in live sports, from a Sky perspective there is less impact on our
current schedule, than there may be for broadcasters who are more reliant on
entertainment shows and soaps.
significant strides in the content space in recent years both in investment and
recognition with shows like Chernobyl, Save Me and we will continue to release
new original and US content which is massively helped by being part of the
Comcast family. Not having all your eggs in one basket is key to Sky’s growth and
Clay: It’s a challenge but broadcasters
are demonstrating great innovation and agility. Plus, it is important to
remember that programme budgets have mostly been deferred. So, we can look
forward to a post-pandemic glut of great programming.
In the meantime, they
have a lot on the stocks and vast back catalogues – back catalogues that have
helped propel services like Netflix to prominence (and which are now being
taken back from Netflix). With more time at home, audiences are experimenting
and a repeat is only a repeat if you have seen it before.
(chair): Is it a different picture for broadcasters like
CNN and CNBC who are more news-led than the likes of a Channel 4 or ITV?
Kate McVeigh: We are in a more fortunate position of not relying on commissioned
feature programming. We have been focused on covering the stories with a
business lens, and delivering the facts and unbiased analysis, not via rolling
and often repetitive breaking news headlines like other channels. With markets
moving at such a breakneck rate our editorial content is more essential now
Rob Bradley: We face a nuanced version of this challenge at CNN. As much of our
content is rolling news, it is not a challenge so much of running out of shows
as we can continue reporting breaking and developing news.
production teams have had to be creative in how we produce stand-alone features
programming that acts as a counterpoint to our news coverage.
(Chair): A lot of advertisers have reacted in a positive
manner to the crisis. What has been your favourite TV ad during this period and
Sarah Jones: I really like what Channel 4 have done with their talent led Stay at
Home idents for the Government – I’m a big John Snow fan so love his ironing
execution. Fingers crossed he will do his socks next.
One of the
reasons I like this so much, is that it is delivering an important message in a
light way – and all of us need a bit of levity in such a difficult and
McVeigh: The NHS ads –
they’re vital and full of critical information for viewers at this time, and
South African Tourism – “Don’t travel now so that you can travel later.” I love
that this ad is sensitive to the environment and has an optimistic tone.
Clay: There are loads (in fact there is a Crisis Creativity
player on our website here). But
I’m a sucker for an emotional ad and I particularly like the Tesco Food love
It is a seamless part
of their existing campaign and works just as well if not better in Lockdown.
Tesco are definitely having a good crisis.
Salmon: I agree with
Lindsey, I’m loving the Food Love Stories ads that Tesco have created – in fact
the whole supermarket sector has responded phenomenally in my opinion. We all
know that TV has always been the very best place to build your brand and in the
present situation brands that have the budget to continue to make powerful
brand creatives will undoubtedly resonate with the huge audiences that are
Being part of the
unique conversation that is happening in millions of homes across the country
is a huge opportunity as audiences look to trusted brands to make sense of an
Kurz: I want to acknowledge all brands
and advertisers who are keeping up their spend. During a time of crisis, it is
even more important to continue communicating with consumers, and we are seeing
some truly creative ways of doing that.
are changing their businesses to adapt to the time by enabling remote services
of need, and those new capabilities have to be communicated to potential
Trinder: McCain Here’s
To Everyone #StayHome. Although an existing, long running TV campaign, McCain
quickly recorded and new VO (Ricky Tomlinson remotely) as soon as we hit the
‘lockdown period’. Topical, powerful and true to the values of the ongoing campaign.
Bradley: Guinness have
been getting their advertising right from as early as I can remember. Their ‘We
Will Toast Again’ ad was brilliant. It hits all the right spots of being
uplifting, reassuring and just…very Guinness. There is plenty of research
showing why brands should still run ads during a crisis and during Coronavirus.
Analysis from Kantar
shows that 60% of brands that ‘go dark’ see a negative impact on brand
relationship metrics, losing affinity, image, loyalty.
(Chair): Many media analysts believe this pandemic will
accelerate huge changes in consumer behaviour. With that in mind, what is the
future of TV advertising?
Rob Bradley: One area of particular interest will be around immersive experiences.
For us at CNN, TV advertising is just one component of a sophisticated media
mix. As we have seen consumers take to immersive experiences – for instance,
tour the Louvre Abu Dhabi virtually if you can’t be there in real life like you
had planned to be – the case for greater adoption of VR/AR into multi-platform
advertising, content creation and marketing campaigns will grow even when we
can travel again.
Mark Trinder: I see a strong future for TV and TV advertising. This challenging
period has seen the public, our viewers, turn to TV as both a trusted source of
information and advice and a provider of comfort and entertainment.
seeing this through audience performance and ‘come together’ moments e.g. Clap
for Carers and many advertisers are working with us to create topical and
contextual campaigns at breakneck speed.
I do feel that
this period will make advertisers think differently about their messaging and
overall campaigns moving forward.
Salmon: What seems to
be different about this crisis, compared to previous recessions, is that much
of the demand for products and services is being pent up rather than completely
lost. This means that when the lockdown starts to lift, the role of brands will
be significant, and the power of TV as important as it was before, if not more
Jones: In these
unusual times people are coming back to TV to be entertained and informed with
uplifts across the board. Younger audiences, in particular, are viewing significantly
more TV than pre-COVID, and we would hope that they continue to spend time with
the content they love on our channels.
This crisis has
accelerated on-demand viewing, as people seek out content at different times of
the day that they want to watch. Again, we would expect this trend to continue,
so brands and agencies should ensure they are investing in TV in a platform
agnostic way in order to maximise reach of their audiences.
Kurz: I do think there will be changes
in consumer behaviour. What we have been seeing so far is significant uptick in
viewership – both linear and on-demand. Plus, the most trusted source of
information – TV is continuing to deliver for the audience.
Companies have to
sell their wares. Once everybody has figured out how to logistically do that,
the need for communication will be greater than before as consumers may need to
learn new ways of doing and buying things. Long-term brand communication is
As such, I don’t
see this specific event as having a significant long-term impact on
Kate McVeigh: According to GlobalWebIndex, 95% of audiences across 13 markets
globally say they are consuming more content since the start of the pandemic,
with TV as one of the primary mediums. On the other side of the pandemic we’ll
see the continuation of flexible working and working from home, which will
continue the resurgence we’re seeing in TV viewing.
(Chair): Lindsey, you had the first word so it seems
fitting you have the last so I will leave you to give the final thought on the
future of TV advertising.
Clay: TV’s future is
already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed. Now the changes that were
already happening in TV via data and tech are accelerating and creating a
hugely bright future for TV advertising. When we come through this crisis,
advertisers will look to increase their efficiency as budgets may be reduced.
availability and targeting capabilities of addressable TV advertising, for example,
will be a powerful way to deliver this.
And, advertisers are
likely going to want to reduce the risk of their advertising investments. We
know from studies such as ‘Profit Ability’ and ‘Demand Generation’ that TV
delivers the highest returns with the least risk, so this bodes well for its