Thoughts 08.10.13

The Power of TV

It’s almost become customary that whenever new technologies begin to take root, the death knell for the old ones are furiously sounded. With the invention of radio, it was thought that newspapers would die out. With the invention of TV, it was thought that radio would die out. With the invention of the internet, it was thought that TV, radio, and newspapers would die out. As much as we love to herald the death of a long-standing medium though, they’re all still here, and some of them are as powerful as ever. Despite the ongoing talk of YouTube’s threat to television viewing, the British public are spending an average of four hours a day watching TV, fifteen minutes more than in 2004. Whilst sceptics would reference the fact that programmes with the highest ever viewer ratings generally hail from the 20th century (bar the Olympic closing ceremony which attracted an audience of over 24m in 2012), per programme ratings are somewhat deceiving. Thanks to the sheer number of channels available to us now, and the rise of TV on demand, drawing comparisons between ratings then and now is difficult.

So it was with great interest that we read the story of Mad Men’s impact on Lucky Strike sales courtesy of an article on The Drum a couple of weeks ago. Reportedly, the sales of Lucky Strike cigarettes have jumped from 23bn to 33bn since the first series of Mad Men aired back in 2007, a huge rise by anyone’s standards. Whilst the ethical impact of this is perhaps unfavourable, it’s an impressive indication of just how much influence TV still has over the general public’s buying decisions. But it’s not just brands that can reap the rewards – entire industries can. The Great British Bake Off’s impact on sales of baking related goods since its first series has been remarkable, with this year’s series causing a rise of more than 60% in sales of cupcake decorations, natural food colourings, and kitchen timers.

For all of the talk about TV and its advertising being on its last legs, few mediums can match the sheer power that it has to pull in audiences, affect buying behaviour, and weave its way into water cooler conversations. With the opening show of Strictly Come Dancing’s 11th series becoming the most-watched series premiere of all time, TV isn’t dead, it’s stronger than ever.