Claire Beale on Advertising

Are you switched on to the new television revolution?

Remember couch potatoes? Those lardy viewers, sprawled on the sofa, being fed a diet of television pap by dictator broadcasters night after night.

In those golden days before we had a such a huge choice of channels, we all watched what we were told to, when we were told to - playthings of the TV schedulers. And if it was pap, we watched it anyway - there was nothing else to do. Life was simple, then, and we couch potatoes were easy prey for advertisers: it's a poor commercial gun that can't hit a slumping target.

But in our new digital world, the couch potato has mutated and wrested control. As a result, 2007 will be the year when television truly emerges from the box in the corner to redefine itself as a stream of content available across a range of platforms, "on demand" whenever the fancy takes us. And for broadcasters (a term that itself is increasingly anachronistic) and advertisers, the shift means a fundamental, irreversible overhaul of the medium.

Every major broadcaster now has its broadband strategy in place and is gearing up for a full on-demand service. And viewers are already demanding. According to research last week from Tiscali, the broadband media service that has a thing or two to gain from this viewing revolution, 63 per cent of us would prefer to watch on-demand TV through our broadband connection, 42 per cent of us reckon traditional TV schedules will die out within 10 years, and almost half of us who already watch on-demand content actually watch less television as a result.

Advertisers and their agencies (at least the ones with heads out of the sand) are frantically working out the implications for a TV advertising model historically based on buying ratings (the number of people to see an ad) across a set period.

For example, what if you want to run time-sensitive ads, like the current crop for the January sales, or "in this week's issue" magazine commercials? And showing TV ads on the internet, when most computer screens aren't far off the size of a portable TV screen, is one thing, but what about if viewers are watching on, say, a mobile phone or Sony PlayStation Portable? These screens bring real formatting issues for advertising creatives. And they are issues the industry needs to be facing right now. Channel 4 is already podcasting to Sony PSPs, and TV broadcasts are in the pipeline, while the new series of Celebrity Big Brother is available to Vodafone customers through their mobiles.

Then there's the critical matter of artists' rights when ads are shown on a medium (the internet) that is not stipulated in the contract with actors and musicians involved in the ads. This matter is still not resolved. The IPA has devised a "12-month moratorium" on ad agencies having to pay a separate set of fees to record labels and actors' unions when ads run on internet or mobile TV, but ads featuring US artists still need individual rights clearance.

The good news is that broadband offers the opportunity to deliver individually-targeted ads, hitting exactly the right people with the right commercial message. But, again, great swathes of the ad industry have yet to wake up to the possibilities.

So much confusion still reins. But while the new on-demand broadband world will redefine TV advertising, the old order is not about to disappear tomorrow. How many of us will really choose to watch our favourite shows on small screens, or have computers situated in a domestic environment where we can settle down for a cosy night's viewing? Watching Coronation Street on the computer in the spare room doesn't hold much appeal.

The truth is that while broadband means on-demand, with viewers in control, most of us are still lardy couch potatoes happy to let someone else do all the hard work in delivering us our TV fare.

* THE FIRST juicy pitch of the new year is already in play. And it's a delicious one for any student of adland politics. The pitch is for Asda's £45 million creative account, currently handled by Publicis. In fact, Publicis has had the business for 17 years and the Siamese client/agency relationship had seemed one of the strongest in town, despite a track record of mediocre advertising that has bordered on the excruciating. Remember Sharon Osbourne as "everymom"?

The guardian of the Asda relationship at Publicis, in true account baron style, was Rick Bendel, a flinty chain-smoker known for his dedication to his client and his influence within the Publicis network. He was even reckoned to be a front-runner to take over from Publicis Groupe chief Maurice Levy when the day comes for succession.

Then, last autumn, Bendel quit Publicis. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family, claiming that his punishing Publicis commitments had kept him away from home too often for too long. Incidentally, Levy greeted the news of Bendel's departure with an impressively smooth management restructure that suggested Bendel was far from irreplaceable.

Anyway, Bendel had decided to turn gamekeeper and left Publicis to take on the marketing director role at Asda. It seemed a perfectly logical move: he knew the company inside out and who better to run the advertising and marketing than the man who knew all the tricks.

The move certainly put Bendel's old colleagues at Publicis London in an interesting position. Though some were far from sorry to see him go, he is now one of the agency's most important clients and as such commands much respect. And to observers, it seemed that Publicis was still sitting sweet. After all, the advertising Bendel inherited at Asda was the advertising that he had presided over at Publicis; he was hardly going to review the business - as many new marketers do.

Except that that's just what he is doing, putting the creative task up for grabs. Idle speculation that the review is in any sense a nose-thumbing at Publicis after a falling out with Levy is undermined by the presence of another Publicis Groupe agency, Fallon, on the pitch list. But even so, the power-plays involved are fascinating. Imagine being the Publicis guys pitching to their old colleague. And imagine what we'll all say if Bendel goes for a radically different approach from the one he nurtured when he was at the agency.

Whatever the outcome of the pitch, Asda desperately needs a marketing boost. The resurgence of Sainsbury's has knocked the brand, though it still retains its position at number two in the supermarket stakes, and its forgettable/embarrassing advertising is doing nothing to improve its fortunes.

Claire Beale is editor of 'Campaign'


Many advertising stars are hired guns who lend their celebrity status to whatever brand is willing to pay big enough bucks. It's hard to pull off the celebrity endorsement thing with any real sincerity. Far better, if you can, to create your own celebrity brand icon: the old Milky Bar Kid, Captain Birds Eye, Howard from Halifax. And Monkey - one of the best-loved advertising celebrities of the last decade.

You'll remember Monkey from the ITV Digital ads he starred in with Johnny Vegas. In fact, the knitted marsupial outshone Vegas and outlived the brand he was advertising. After ITV Digital's scandalous demise, Monkey was "sold" to Comic Relief, which now owns the cheeky icon.

Now Monkey is being contracted to PG Tips for its new advertising campaign, replacing those other much-loved brand icons, the PG Tips chimps, and starring once again alongside his old sidekick, Vegas, reunited over a cup of PG Tips.

The ads are by Mother, the agency that created Monkey for ITV Digital and is now PG Tips' agency; the same team that did the old Digital ads is behind the new work. The scripts are beautifully written, as you'd expect of Mother, and they're full of lovely witty touches: there's one particularly delightful moment of self-awareness when Vegas looks knowingly at the camera and pulls a packet of PG purposefully into view.

As well as the TV advertising, there's a website where you can buy Monkey-branded merchandise with profits going to Comic Relief, and there will be special promotion packs of PG containing mini-monkeys.

I can't think of any other example of a brand icon being transferred from one brand to another like this. The result is the first great ad of the year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'