TV was once where some of the best creative ads were found. No wonder advertising creatives alway chased the opportunities to work in TV.

Today, I find it saddening that much of the broadcast output is mediocre, if not downright bad. It got me questioning why that should be so, and that required  a little historic pondering.

In my early days in advertising, TV time was eye-wateringly expensive. It followed that creative and production costs had to follow a logical percentage of media costs.  Whatever formula you used, if you were investing in a multi-million pound campaign you would not jeopardise it with budget creativity. TV production was also a costly activity. Production companies had high overheads in terms of fixed assets and talent.

It’s not surprising then that a huge amount of great work was done. TV advertising became a nurturing environment for some of our most gifted talent – many leading film directors cut their teeth on 30 second epics for the small screen. The best in the business wanted to work in broadcast and competition drove quality.

Today, with multiple channels, TV has never been so cheap. Some sources (Thinkbox for example) estimate  that TV advertising is now 30% lower in real terms than it was just 10 years ago. At the same time, technology had brought production costs tumbling where video output can be bought for tiny budgets.

This brings us to a simple conclusion

  • There is simply lots more TV advertising around – that’s good for advertisers
  • With low media costs advertisers don’t feel justified to spend on specialist creative and production services – which is bad for standards
  • Many of the ads are now conceived and/or produced in-house or by budget suppliers
  • And, as the old adage goes – you gets what you pay for

And now for the good news

The good news is that there is still an amazing amount of stunning creativity in television advertising. For creatives with talent, technology now has opened the doors to conceive and produce content that would have been beyond the reach of their predecessors. All it needs is clients prepared to make a small investment to generate great results.

There is probably as much, if not more, high quality creative content. It’s just that there is so much more air-time available that we have to work harder to cut through the noise of the mediocre.

I’ll just have to relax and stop fuming at the dross and concentrate on delighting in the true gems of the advertising art.