Don at work by abbey*christine, via Flickr

Author: Matthew Kershaw, Content Director, BBH London

I talked here yesterday about a near future in which TV advertising would become fully targetted, completely measurable and highly interactive.

So what are the implications of this prediction for agencies?

Without getting all Harold Camping on you, here are five things I believe agencies should do to craft the advertising of the future:

1. Be action oriented not message oriented

The briefs we gave teams historically were geared around message – what did we want to say to consumers?

Nowadays, this has evolved to discussions which treat communications as a product to be shared, remixed, commented upon. (BBH briefs ask, “Why are the target going to want to seek this idea out, spend time with it or share it?”)

But beyond this, the new landscape will require us all to think about, in a much broader sense, what action we want the viewer to take. For sure, it will be a simple, light action that they can take there and then, rather than anything complex or time-consuming. Viewers are in on-sofa lean-back mode after all.

But nevertheless, the ‘light action’ can be pretty broad:

You get the idea. Bookmarking is interesting because there is often latent interest in a product or service in an ad, but not to the degree that you want to stop watching your  favourite show. The ability to ‘save it for later’ seems very appealing (this is born out by work done by Thinkbox).

‘Add to basket’ is also interesting because it has the power to disrupt the relationship between product and retailer, giving advertisers the ability to drive viewers straight from TV to supermarket.

2. Bring sales closer to advertising

Talking of actions, the most important action to most advertisers is the decision to ‘buy’.

The road to ‘t-commerce’ is littered with failures. And you can see why. Imagine inputting all this on your TV using a remote control. Nightmare.

People don’t want to be taken away from the programme to a simple voting interface, much less a complicated e-commerce journey. But luckily, in this new connected era, people on the sofa are interacting with the shared screen using their phone, tablet etc as the management tool.

Linking the incredible motivating power of TV with the ability to buy there and then could be the single biggest change in the advertising model since – well, since the introduction of TV advertising itself. The process by which a consumer becomes aware of a product through advertising, decides to purchase, goes in store to buy the product and then becomes an evangelist might have taken a number of weeks or months in the past.

Now, the whole process can theoretically be compressed into a matter of minutes.

3. Love Data

And, as that buying process compresses, so advertisers will become less interested in the fact that x million people had the ‘opportunity to view the ad’, or what a bunch of people in a focus group said sometime later about their brand.

Instead they will increasingly measure the success of their campaigns by the response they get right there and then, on the spot.

One consequence of this is that understanding and analysing consumer responses, and ever more complex results and tracking will be vital. Especially if it helps you understand better which of your creative is having the best impact. It will determine what contribution your agency is making to ‘the final click’ as opposed to all those other agencies.

If you’re not already, time to start building your data offering.

4. Prepare for a world targetted and varied

In a world where TV ads can be targetted, clients need multiple variants of the ads tailored to different audiences. Agencies need to consider multiplicity in their strategy, which has important implications for the production process. We need to do more for less. Big clients like Unilever are already starting to decouple the production side of what agencies do to get economies of scale. The pressures that all agencies are facing at the moment will only be exacerbated by this internet-ising of television.

5. Be always on

Tracking instant, real-time results inevitably means instant real-time copy changes and tweaks. For ad agencies, this requires analysts who are ready to set up and manage this information. And, as mentioned, a production process that allow for constant, on-the-spot-changes and A/B testing.

In summary

TV is changing due to increased targeting by broadcasters, and – as viewers themselves are more connected – more social activity around TV content. The impact of this is that TV advertising will to become more like advertising on the internet, more measurable and interactive.

One fear is that this will channel creativity into a singular expression, “so is advertising going to be purely about direct marketing techniques from now on?” one colleague asked me.

I hope that isn’t case.

Standing out in an ever-busier media landscape will rely more than ever on creativity. But what I also hope will happen is that as the advertising gets closer to the sale – the moment of truth –  agencies will start to have a broader commercial remit. Something which can only help increase our relevance to our clients.

There is a scene at the end of Series 2 of Madmen where Don Draper fights it out with Duck over the future of Sterling Cooper. Don wins the day with his line “I don’t sell advertising, I sell products”.

Connected TV potentially offers the power to sell products to an unheard of degree.

It’s what Don would have wanted.