Friday, May 12, 2006

So Is Television a Dying DTC Medium?

So Is Television a Dying DTC Medium?

No. It is not. Bob Garfield, noted Ad Age critic, said recently at the 2006 DTC National that television as we know it will be a dead medium. He did not say exactly when but sooner than later. I just do not believe this is true. Yes, I read the Tipping Point, and I know that things can happen with lightning speed.

I know the Internet is thriving. I know drug companies want to reach patients with targeted relationship programs. I agree that the Internet and direct marketing will boom. I just do not agree it will result in the death of television, at least sudden death. Television may eventually die of natural causes, but no sudden heart attack in its middle age.

It is true that television is fragmented and network share is declining. It is also true that digital video recording is a threat to commercial viewing. These trends will continue to erode television effectiveness, and network television will face problems justifying higher ad rates. But it will take more than a decade to see a major shift.

Our DTC target audience is generally older than the Internet and TiVO early adopters. My daughter at 20 is a classic Ipod and Internet user. She does not watch much television. My mother-in-law does. Yes, she uses AOL once in a while but still watches television every night. The baby boomers like me are somewhere in the middle. I admit to watching Lost, American Idol, 24 and much more of those less than intellectual shows. Most people watch a lot more commercial television than is fashionable to admit.

The fact is that television commercials are filled with wasted viewers who do zap and TiVo. The fact also is that despite this, television still creates advertising awareness quickly and effectively. Advertisers may have to run more frequently to overcome zappers and TiVo'ers. This creates a higher true CPM than the network ratings indicate. Over time that wasted user base will force networks to lower ad prices. All this will happen slowly and there will be no sudden Tipping Point where marketers will have to scramble to figure out how to reach consumers. Garfield expects a period of media chaos after the death of television.

Sorry Bob, it will not happen that way. The implications that new DTC reach vehicles will replace or compete equally with television are probably true. This does bode well for DTP/Internet and Point-of-Care companies. But time is there for a smooth transition. I know if Garfield reads this he will think I am a conservative dunce who cannot see the future. I am conservative, true, but I am a good marketer, as are most of my drug company colleagues. Garfield is a writer, an observer of trends. He has the luxury of being a grand thinker, and as a grand thinker he must make grand predictions. Those of us who must run businesses deal in realities, and one of those will be the continued importance of television including the networks. We may be conservative knuckleheads sometimes, but I am willing to bet Bob a nice dinner that somehow NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX will still be doing well in 2016.

Bob Ehrlich, Chairman
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

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