Maybe the title of this post should be a “Just a Quick Heads-Down About TV”? I’ve written about the subject of multi-screening before on this site but it’s time to revisit the subject, mainly because I’ve been revisiting the subjects of my ongoing social experiment.

I’ve been living out of a suitcase since July 2014, traveling the world with a lady from Seattle and living the digital nomad lifestyle. We generally rent a place for the duration of our stay in a specific city but we’ve also spent a fair amount of time staying with our families and friends. It’s the best way to actually spend some quality time with them, so for days, weeks and even months, I’ve been able to be the observer in a variety of households in different countries and in wildly different cultural and even economic circumstances.

The one thing they all have in common? No one, and I do seriously mean no one, watches any advertising on TV. Full stop, end of story. This is where this post could finish.

But I’ll continue for a while…

If there’s the ability to skip ads, then the ads are duly skipped, in exactly the same way they are when you’re waiting for that YouTube video to load with your pointer poised over the “Skip Ad” button and watching the countdown like a hawk.

If the ads can’t be skipped, while watching high-profile live sporting events for example, then the channel is either changed, or a second screen is brought into the mix. Channel switching during the ads is becoming less of a thing in an age where everyone has a smartphone or tablet with them while they’re watching.

It’s quite a strange sight to see a group of people from multiple generations sitting around a TV set with their heads resolutely turned down and their eyes locked on the screen of their device. Some idly scroll through their social media feeds, others watch videos, while some play Candy Crush or whatever the latest trendy game is. Often the TV volume is muted so they don’t have to listen to the high volume yammering of the ads.

Regardless of what they’re “watching”, they’re not watching the ads. Is this a scientifically verifiable study? Obviously not, but it seems to be the case wherever I go, and for whoever I ask. So why are advertisers “going back to TV”?

They must be measuring the results and are totally happy with the bang for bucks they’re getting from the TV component of their campaigns, right? Or are they just stuck?

"Glued to the TV" will never exist ever again.

"Glued to the TV" will never exist ever again.

When it comes to advertising, no one seems to have the definitive answer just yet. Social isn’t the universal panacea it was meant to be, and “making things go viral” is about as reliable as the American democratic process. Print is dying, dead or surging depending on who you ask, and buying online banner ads can be much the same as throwing your money out the window and hoping someone throws money back in.

So in that cold and inhospitable environment, is it any wonder that advertisers are turning to comfort food aka television advertising? When you just don’t know what to do, you do what you always did. At least you won’t lose your job.

Then again, things can be done differently. Case in point, I look at what my brother – the bossman of this agency – did for a client recently.

After a massive overhaul of the brand based on a deep and insightful look at the market, with some clever thinking applied, the client is hundreds of millions of dollars ahead of last year. Not slightly ahead, not doing okay, they’re absolutely killing it. Why? Because they went back to the real basics. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses, understanding their market and then treating the customer with the respect they deserve while communicating the right messages as effectively and as innovatively as possible.

That’s what works. Another million bucks spent on TV pushing the same old, same old won’t put you hundreds of percent ahead of last year. Hell, you’ll be lucky if you don’t go backwards trying to communicate with people who aren’t even watching your expensive ads. Think about it...