The psychology behind the making of TV ads vs digital

Celebrity mass advertising is not as authentic and relatable today.

MUMBAI: There was a time not so long ago when TV was the main medium to consume content. All that one had to do was create a TV commercial and voila! It was watched by millions. But recently, more and more youth and millenials are gravitating toward platforms like from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter to Whatsapp to Tiktok to Instagram to OTT, to consume video. How are brands engaging with them? What format of video ads are they creating to communicate their brand message?  And have TV commercials evolved in their journey from TV to OTT and digital?

However, according to some industry experts, there is just a shift in the trend and format of advertising. In earlier days TVCs were the only content that was created but today it is much beyond that. Today it is more about creating ads for different platforms and of different durations rather than creating one single commercial.  Experts also believe that the slump in the economy has resulted in the decline of creating long format advertisements.

Says Jigsaw Pictures founder and creative producer Rajnish Lall:  “I think there is a bit of similarity in creating both a TV and digital commercial. The difference is not about reach. Both are catering to a product or a brand and are done keeping in mind the brand proposition. People usually make a brand film which is 59 seconds so that it could also be put on Instagram. Content that we make is usually three and five minutes, depending upon client requirements.  Television costs a lot more. And to run on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram or any other digital platform it’s much more reasonable and people go for the longer version of it. Having said that, both the platforms are representing a brand and have more seriousness about it. When it comes to making a TVC the client is more precise about the output. The production quality cannot be down it has to be good, very good or great. However, in digital, people could make content in all sorts of budgets.”

According to Havas Media Group CEO India and South East Asia Anita Nayyar, TVCs shot for television are normally for 30 seconds to 60 seconds and when they want to make an edit to run on television 60 sec is pretty long. Generally, ads are shot for 60 seconds so that it could run on cinema. When they run the campaign for other platforms they have the adaptation of 30 seconds to 20 seconds to 10 seconds depending upon the storyline.

She adds: “There are two ways of putting a commercial on YouTube where you can do a long edit of a commercial that runs for one or half a minute but whereas when you look at advertising on digital media the ads are pretty short because according to reports the average attention span is three to five seconds. The creativity and the thinking in digital are done on that basis.”

"Unlike a TVC which is based on a traditional story arc - beginning middle and end; the making of digital ads involves adapting to the media platform format and context,” points out Madison Media Sigma CEO Vanita Keswani. “The digital video creatives span from five to six seconds short format videos as well as long format 60-120 seconds storytelling ones. Tech innovative creatives on digital have a two-way communication with consumers" She adds.

The advertising costs related to producing content for TV is expensive as compared to digital format. In fact, as per the reports of Magna, the research arm of  IPG Mediabrands, digital ad spending in 2017 reached $209 billion worldwide that is  41 per cent of the overall market. While television brought in $178 billion which tots up to 35 percent of the total market.

If one were to estimate about 9 per cent of that going towards buying space and inventory on the different media platforms, that leaves us with digital ad production totting up to around $20 billion worldwide, whereas TV commercials production spend would be around $17 billion. The figures would be much lower for India, though as spends on creative and TV are much lower here compared to more developed markets in Europe, the US and Latin America.

Says an ad industry veteran:  “A large part of the production budget is kept aside for paying celebrities as endorsers (even as high as 25 per cent sometimes) as lazy creative’s from advertising agencies and not savvy enough marketing executives look for short cuts to create their communication. My estimate is that almost 30 per cent of TVCs are relying on celebrity endorsements. What this means is that the quantum of TVCs being made by a brand is falling each year or if they want to produce the same number, they have to slash the production side of the budget,” says an industry expert. And this is being felt even more in these tough economic times where brands have slashed their spending. There is a huge squeeze on TV commercial makers.”

Lall echoes this. “Before the digital era, they used to make two to three films in that budget. Now what is happening, the budget hasn’t gone up because economically we are a little down as a country so things are not taking off. The client has limited money, his expectation is not to make two or three films but to make eight films. So, the money you invested in making a television ad has gone low.”

He also points out to another problem. According to him, advertisers are anyway even today more inclined towards putting aside higher budgets for making TV and cinema spots as compared to digital, though he would like this to change.“Normally you will not see a good quality digital film because of the lower budgets. Digital spots can be shot on any kind of camera, it could be on their phones as well. So basically it can be done at a very basic budget. So the output is not great. However, very established brands don’t mess around it because they are conscious and particular about every piece of communication they are providing to the brand. It should match the brand's personality, image and aura in the market and in the mind of the consumer also which the upcoming brands are not paying much attention to.”

Says Nayyar:  “If you have a long format TVC they are normally done on a high budget which is done for Rs 1 crore to Rs 3 crore and Rs 5 crore. Whereas, in digital ad creation they usually don’t look for a long life piece of communication. While for television you produce one commercial for a longer period of time and for a digital you make multiple commercials. I don’t think so for digital money spend is as much as spent on creating TV or cinema commercials they are long format. TV spots also get adapted to suit digital. In digital you have to look at short duration, collaborations, what will grab the attention of audiences within the span three to five seconds as they have been provided with the option of skipping ads.”

Keswani’s view is that brands and agency creatives should reduce their dependence on celebrities in TVCs. Says she: “Celebrity mass advertising is not as authentic, relevant and relatable today. The authenticity is being questioned. What works better is turning the spotlight on consumers in TVCs. Ad agency creative’s and brand managers could consider having real and relatable faces in TVCs, which will help the masses connect with the brand and its messaging.”

“What it will also do is free up budgets towards creating a greater number of TVCs or putting in more VFX, animation, or a greater number of locations or better sets or bringing in better directors and videographers so that more impactful ads can be created for both digital and TV,” says the anonymous executive quoted earlier.

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