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As seen on screen (alongside quality content)

Most people don’t want to hang out with racists and extremists in the shady corners of dodgy parties. Brands are no different and don’t want their advertising rubbing shoulders with undesirable content.

And yet, there we were recently discovering – thanks to a Times front page story (£) – that some brands have been inadvertently hanging out with racists and extremists online. 

Then there are today’s revelations about Facebook’s mishandling of sexualised images of children and the further doubts they throw on the ability of automated systems to moderate content.

This is the ‘murky’ side of online advertising, which P&G’s Marc Pritchard has recently called time on and which you have read an awful lot about recently. 

From Facebook’s measurement inflation to ‘bots to measly viewability standards to all the other straws that have been piling up on the online advertising camel, we have now it seems reached breaking point.

Obviously not all online advertising is murky (some TV advertising is online), but if this is the new world of precision targeting that advertisers were promised, we doubt it is the one they wanted. 

This is no time for schadenfraud, sorry schadenfreude. Tempting though it really, really could be for some people, although obviously not me or anyone I know.

But it is high time to ask questions. And if brands weren’t already asking questions about the effectiveness of their online spend, they will be now. It makes the high quality and trustworthiness of media like TV, cinema and most newsbrands and magazines stand out even more. 

But I’ll focus more on TV obviously.

TV is a trusted environment for brands. It is, as they say, ‘brand safe’. It is a place brands want to be seen, where they can rub shoulders with high quality shows that are important parts of people’s lives. Its trustworthiness and quality are two of the reasons why TV is such an effective form of advertising. 

And these qualities have no doubt been a good part of the reason why online brands have been flocking on to TV in recent years.

In 2015, Facebook was the biggest spending new-to-TV advertiser in the UK as online brands collectively became the second biggest spending category on TV. 

Then, in 2016, online businesses ploughed on to become the biggest spending category on TV. Based on data from Nielsen, online businesses invested a total of £639 million in TV, an increase of 8% on 2015.

In total, TV advertising investment totalled £5.28 billion in 2016. This was up 0.2% which isn’t a giant leap – there was some Brexit dampening – but which did mean it was the 7th year of consecutive growth for TV advertising in the UK. 

So why are online brands getting on TV? There are a number of reasons – and you could do worse than watching the wonderful Ben Carter from Just Eat explaining why their advertising strategy is so TV-focussed.

For online brands, which have little or no physical presence, TV’s ability to create emotional connections with large audiences is vital. You can’t become a household name if you don’t go to lots of households. TV advertising helps make online businesses feel less virtual and more real. More trustworthy. More credible.

The ethos behind the endorsement ‘as seen on screen’ is as true today as it ever was, even if brands don’t feel the need to point it out on their packaging any longer. But what is next to you on screen is more important than ever.


  • Lindsey Clay
    Lindsey Clay
    CEO, Thinkbox
  • Posted under
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