How Has Technology Impacted British Advertising?

The first advert shown on television in Britain was for Gibbs SR Toothpaste and it was aired on ITV on Thursday 22nd September, 1955. The TV sales executives that sold that advertising space to Gibbs had no idea how impactful of a trend they were starting.

Over the course of the next half century, the British TV advertising market would become a multi-billion pound market – at the height of The X Factor’s popularity, 30 second advertising slots on ITV were going for as much as £200,000.

In the past 10 years though, TV advertising has faced new challenges with the rise of online media. In this article we take a look at how the internet in particular has impacted British advertising.

The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of TV Advertising

Early TV adverts tended to be longer, more disjointed and much more harshly lit to the adverts that we are used to seeing today. Over the decades they evolved to become punchier, more succinct and most importantly, more memorable.

The 1980s saw TV advertising in the UK explode. The creation of new station Channel 4 helped, but it was perhaps the rampant explosion in capitalism brought about by the Thatcher administration that was most responsible for the rise of TV advertising.

The former British Prime Ministers desire to see the economy move from a manufacturing to a service focused one saw adverts for all manner of things popping up on television screens across the country.

This trend continued through the 1990s and 2000s with the success of TV advertising mirroring the popularity of TV. At the beginning of the 2010s however, traditional TV found itself challenged in a way that it had never been before.

YouTube, Netflix and other streaming services all took huge chunks of TV’s viewership and as a result, the TV advertising industry began to stutter for the first time in its history.  Traditional advertising campaigns like those for clothing brands and cars began to spend huge chunks of their advertising budgets – traditionally reserved for TV – online.

In addition to that, online advertising flourished as brands that wouldn’t normally do well on TV began to find success through online advertising campaigns. An example of this is online casino sites who have become a huge success since their transition online. By advertising on a platform where the games are consumed, it allowed online casino sites to reach their target audience. With a range of games and specific casino game sites such as online slot providers, there is more competition for online casino providers to face.

At the end of the 2010s it looked as though TV advertising’s decades of unrivalled dominance were finally coming to an end. Then the pandemic hit, and TV experienced a huge revival in its popularity with TV proving itself to be more pandemic proof than other forms of multimedia.

After experiencing a 10% contraction the year preceding the Covid-19 pandemic, channels such as ITV and Channel 4 announced growth of 20% just a year later. With the world finally shaking off the shackles of Covid-19 and returning back to normality, it’s more than likely that we will see a further contraction in the TV advertising industry.

The Threats Facing TV Advertising

The previously unchallenged King of British advertising has a great many more threats now than at any other time in its history. Here are just three of the major threats on the horizon for TV advertising:

Netflix: Subscription services in general are a major threat to the TV advertising industry but it is Netflix in particular that is the biggest threat. Other online streaming services are beginning to air adverts at the beginning of shows and, at times, during them like regular broadcasters.

Netflix however has stood firm behind its principle of not airing adverts and commercials to its users, instead making its revenues through selling content to broadcasters and the lucrative subscription fees.

With an estimated 17 million subscribers and counting in the UK, Netflix will continue to take a huge chunk of TV’s market share in the coming years and with it, damage the TV advertising industry.

Social Media: The rise of social media has also coincided with falling TV viewing figures. How often do you get home after a hard day at work and spend an hour or two scrolling away on your phone? If you’re doing it, how many other people around the country do you think are doing it?

TikTok, more than any other social media is proving incredibly successful in diverting people’s attention away from television screens to their mobile screens. Attention spans are also getting shorter as a result of the instant gratification of social media, which is not good for TV advertising.

Pricing:  The rise of the internet has enabled thousands of small businesses to pop up all over the country. Unfortunately for many of these business owners, they simply do not have the resources to advertise their products or services on terrestrial TV.

Fortunately though, they don’t need to. Advertising on sites like TikTok and YouTube that will provide more targeted advertising campaigns than television ones are cheaper and more affordable. In addition to that, many businesses can organically advertise for free by creating engaging online content.

In Summary

The pandemic may have provided momentary respite for the TV advertising industry in the UK, but in the long run, the online market and subscription services will continue to eat away at TV’s market share.

In the coming years, we are more likely to get catchy jingles stuck in our heads from watching videos on YouTube than from watching TV.