Thanksgiving and Black Friday in America – the marketing celebration?

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Black Friday Advertising Flock

In case you missed it, Friday November 21st 2014 was World Television Day. It was not brought to you by Toyota or McDonalds, nor was it NBC or even NPR. No, this is a United Nations led initiative backed by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the Association of Commercial Television (ACT) and egta, the Brussels based association of television and radio sales houses.

While the role TV plays as an advertising medium today is under constant scrutiny, why not celebrate TV once a year? We need to face the facts. TV is an incredibly powerful medium and will continue to be in whatever form it may evolve into over the years to come.

When TV launched itself onto the media scene it was greeted with the same level of disdain, dismissal and derision as some industry disruptors are today. Netflix? They will never survive the death of the DVD. AirBNB? Who wants to stay in the guest bedroom of a complete stranger? The list goes on…

Who knew that TV would remain as dominant as it is for as long as it has been?

TV content is still massively important to consumers. When TV content is done right (and it frequently is), we all talk about it. Today it is always available, whether you want it now or later, regardless of screen and location.

TV’s content creators are continually pushing the boundaries of what is creatively and technically possible. Thirteen episodes of top-class drama made available for one sitting, sports covered from every angle, a live feed from pretty much any world event and more.

Then there is TV as an advertising medium. This is where it continues to be criticized, because even though the content and distribution model is evolving, neither the TV industry nor the people buying its airtime seem to be incredibly creative in how to use the medium for advertising. We are still stuck in commercial breaks and annoying “brought to you by” clocks, weather maps, sports replays and other assorted ‘on-air assets’.

Case in point: we are a few days away from Black Friday, which really should be called ‘Black Monday to Sunday Including But Not Limited To Thanksgiving’. Although Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday tradition (Canada does celebrate Thanksgiving, too, but a whole month earlier), Americans can be proud that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday concepts have taken off as a global retail phenomenon. In some countries, these sales periods coincide with the US dates, in other countries they have been moved to coincide with Christmas or Ramadan for instance.

It is a well-known fact that US Thanksgiving dinner consists of a lot of food, and the main ingredient is of course turkey. It is also a well-known fact that Turkey is full of Tryptophan which makes you really, really sleepy.

Perhaps most marketers who were contemplating Black Friday/Cyber Monday activation all ate a big Turkey meal prior to plotting their strategies, because all of them resorted to the one thing they knew, which is to jump on the “HUGE promotional SALES!!!!!” bandwagon.

There are two strikes against this strategy:

Strike One: promotions do not work. This might seem cynical but there is a huge body of evidence which backs this up. Nielsen did research across the enormous portfolio of businesses they serve and found that 67% of promotions do not even break-even, and only 33% make money.

Black Friday Trade Promotions Advertising

Strike two: Literally every TV ad on US TV this week is promotional. None of them stand out. But not to worry, marketers and their agencies have a great strategy to ensure the promotional advert will stand out, and this strategy is pure frequency.

From a content point of view, television today offers us some of the best, funniest, most gripping and emotional content ever. But while watching it, we must suffer through back-to-back Black Friday deal commercials, whose unifying message is that there are (spoiler alert!) great Black Friday deals to be had on Black Friday (and pretty much all week before and after), from everybody, everywhere.

Look, retailers and marketers, agencies and TV airtime sellers: I think the consumer gets it. They know it. They expect it. They are conditioned and tuned in to it. So why on earth do you think that the secret impact weapon is over the top frequency? Black Friday advertisers seem to still believe that ‘more’ equals ‘better’ rather than overkill.

So here is wishing you a belated World Television Day, a Happy Thanksgiving and a profitable Black Friday/Cyber Monday. If you would like to use television advertising effectively and in alignment with your agencies, give us a call here at Flock.

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