June 29, 2015

Why Won't Broadcasters Fight?

The great Dave Trott has distilled the essence of effective marketing strategy into two words -- predatory thinking.
"Predatory thinking is ruthless and aggressively focused on beating the competition."
Predatory thinking is not for the timid or the fearful. It is not for the fat and happy. Is not for those who have forgotten how to defend themselves.

It is not for the U.S. broadcasting industry. Our broadcasting industry refuses to fight.

In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to speak to several broadcaster groups. They are good, well-meaning people. But they don't get it.

They know they are getting their asses handed to them by the online ad industry. They know the online ad industry is very vulnerable on many fronts. But as I wrote a while back...
"(The online ad industry) have the press in their back pocket; they have ad agencies pimping for them. But broadcast(ers)... are pathetically unprepared for this fight. They haven't learned that if they don't tell their story, no one else will."
The broadcast industry is so used to printing money (in their heyday some had margins of 60% and higher!) that they seem to have decided that a permanent posture of aggrievement is a substitute for a fight. 

They are being taken to the cleaners by hyper-motivated digital evangelists who understand what predatory thinking means.

It's not as if the broadcast industry doesn't have a good story to tell, they just don't seem to know how to tell it.

It's not like they don't have the resources to tell their story, they just refuse to use them.

It's not that they don't have a killer weapon, they just don't recognize it.

It's not that the broadcast industry isn't doing a good job of implementing their strategy, they don't even have a strategy. 

The longer they allow the online ad industry to convince impressionable marketers and clueless agencies that broadcasting is dead or dying, the closer they are to enabling those fictions to become facts.

I have no dog in the fight between traditional and digital advertising. I don't care who wins or who loses.

But I bought a ticket and I want to see a good fight. All I'm seeing is one lean and hungry fighter and one overweight punching bag.


Cecil B. DeMille said...

Winning the court of public opinion isn't winning. Where it counts, broadcast is winning. Handily. As you've pointed out. So, to me, this is more like a loudmouthed trash talker getting pummeled to oblivion by a silent force of nature. If the online ad industry could bring out events by simply yammering on about them, TV would have been dead a long time ago. And since it isn't, saying it is obviously isn't helping.

George Tannenbaum said...

What I can't understand about the broadcast industry is why we are sticking to the :30. It seems with computers running how commercials are slated, you should be able to buy a :37 or a :23 or something that accommodates the message without breaking the bank.

Rory said...

Basically, yeah. I work in Paid Social, and while I believe it's good for what it is (in terms of delivering bespoke creatives to specific audience, with a measured path to conversion), it's tons more expensive than TV, on a per-view basis. I remember chatting with a broadcast guy, asking him how much they pay per-view on TV, and it's insanely low.

I don't think broadcast needs anyone defending it. They still get the lion's share of the budget, at least in the places I've worked.

Doug Garnett said...

It looks to me like the broadcast industry suffers from being far too close to the movie biz - and addicted to "riding the fad". And that gets their sales logic all mucked up by fad-ism. (Painfully twisted logic. "Remember how well Terminator did. So this movie will be a lot like Terminator. But we'll get rid of the robot guy so it has more of the guy/girl thing. Then we'll have her own a bookstore and him be a corporate guy. Then we'll make it happen in Seattle and cast Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Trust us...Terminator was a big hit. So "When Harry Met Sallie" will be, too.")

So when the "internet is the entire future" fad started, it sucked in the bulk of the broadcast execs who never asked "will it really?" and just went with "okay, we'd better get ready to jettison everything good we do so we can ride this fad...".

Except, none of their attempts to ride the fad worked. So you'd think at least their accounting guys would be challenging them.

terrystevens said...


When multiple outlets are all running the same entertainment content from a single source, there needs to be uniform spot lengths at the local level.

Shanghai61 said...

What does Stanley Bing have to say on the matter? Or is he still out to lunch?

Curvingthunder said...

In contrast to the US, predatory thinking and actions exist among broadcasters in Canada. They are cashing in with the creation of digital divisions, often saddling broadcast reps with digital budgets or targets. The prevailing opinion among the survivors or old guard is that they signed up to sell broadcast - not web space. Many don't know what the hell they are selling other than display ads on their stations' websites for dictated CPMs by their revenue management departments.

It's a surprise that the predatory wolves disguised as nice sheep are not prowling in the US as they are in Canada.

Alexandre Lamarre said...

I think part of the reason why broadcast has difficulty defending its position is that online ads have precise metrics to monitor ad efficiency, whereas broadcast doesn't.

The argument for online is "I have crappy but verifiable results" whereas broadcast's argument is "I have much better results, but can't really prove it to you. You will just have to trust me."

In a time where every decision has to be cleared through five levels of bureaucracy, it's no wonder that hard data wins over vision.

I'm not at all surprised by broadcast being slow to move. It's the same fight as Napster vs. music labels, or Uber vs. Taxis. The new guy is light and quick and the old guy doesn't really want anything to change.

The difference though, is that in this fight, the new guy doesn't nearly have as good a product than the old guy.