What do an Asda gondola end, a mannequin and ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ have in common?
The day’s ‘leaders debate’ was a discussion amongst David Abraham, Chief Executive, Channel 4, Tim Davie, Director of Audio & Music, BBC and Richard Halton, Chief Executive, YouView.
Here’s the synopsis:
“The content revolution is here, and it’s ferocious. Search and recommendation, YouView and Google TV are changing how we watch television and ultimately how we market our brands. In a year of seismic change across the board, Promax invites key industry leaders to the stage for their views on what the future holds and how it will affect YOU.”
Grilling them on this was Media dude Steve Hewlett. One of the questions he posed to Richard Halton was something along the lines of ‘what role do you see for linear channels in this new on-demand environment?’ (Or something to that affect – my short hand is woeful). To which Richard Halton argued that linear channels had a massive role to play. He cited three reasons for his belief:
1. Channels have history and in that, endless miles of brand equity built up over time that simply couldn’t be ignored.
2. An increasing amount of consumer choice means that there is an increasing need amongst viewers for help navigating their way through the choice on offer.
3. The linear schedule in and of itself, creates brand value.
The last point stuck with me a little. And I’ll tell you for why.
In adland, context of delivery has been hyped for a few years now (it’s been the year of the mobile since 2003 after all) but until recently has never been fully nailed. With increasing location-based data being made available through applications like Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places etc, we’re beginning to see this part of the industry take off as smart brands are understanding how to use the context of where, when and how their messages are received to ultimately drive what they should be saying. However, in TV land, it is the time at which we view the content that has largely been TV land’s context currency.
For example, ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ said a lot about BBC 2. Not just because it chose to commission it but because they realised the value of how culturally significant 9pm had become in the schedule. The show was a channel defining bit of branding in its own right for its content and because of its scheduling. Knowing that “prime time” was the channel’s shop window when they expected most viewers to be tuning in, it was incredibly important that the show was something that the channel could be proud of, that they thought there was an appetite for, that they thought was current and that would reinforce the channel’s own brand values.
More recently, Big Brother has assumed the dressed mannequin in the Channel 4 boutique, occupying the 10pm slot every summer for the last ten years. In essence, the art of scheduling programming became an exercise in marketing strategy in as much the same way that retailers would take pain-stakingly great care in how they dress their shop window.
Carrying on the retail analogy, these ‘marquee’ pieces (of content/clobber etc) are what retailers and supermarkets have understood they need to dress their mannequins in or stock on their gondola ends for sometime. These key, visible moments in the retail experience have created the cues that have helped the ambling shopper define the brand in their head and draw people into having a closer relationship with them by not just saying, “hey, this is what we’re about” but also “hey, we thought you’d like this”.
With the advent then of Youview, we may not need to jump straight to see what’s on at 9pm anymore, but we will still look to the channels we know and love to help us navigate our way through the choice by curating what’s out there for us. Today channels largely prioritise through their scheduling; if it is on at 9pm, we expect certain traits from the programme depending on the channel the programme was shown on.
Tomorrow, they’ll have to think of other ways to decide what should go into their shop window that define the channel’s wares, brand and values and not because people will stop watching shows at 9pm or window shopping. Which is why above all else, having a really strong idea behind your channel brand first and foremost will be more important than the medium the channel currently sits on.