Ok, Corrie fans / media gurus, have you noticed how storylines in Coronation Street are relevant to the entire history of modern advertising. A big call – I know, but hear me out.

Coronation Street Advertising & Media
How has advertising during Coronation Street changed?

Only a few months ago, Jenny Bradley saved Kevin’s boy, Jack, from being run over by a Blackpool tram. And this is significant because…?

Here’s why. In December 1989, Alan Bradley (Jenny’s father) had the misfortune to be killed by a tram whilst attempting to push Rita under it. The big difference with this episode was that it was watched by almost 27 million viewers. No other edition of Coronation Street has been watched by more people.

Almost half the then UK’s population watched the unfortunate Alan’s demise.

The viewing figures for the May 16th’s edition of Coronation Street were around 6 million viewers.  These figures were viewed by the industry as good but represent a difference of around  78% from the landmark 1989 edition.

Either there’s a big gap in the market today for tram related fatality content, or fewer people are watching Coronation Street.

But it’s not just Coronation Street

In 1989, ITV’s share of viewing was 42% – In 2015, it was 14.2%. (Source BARB).  Crudely, ITV today  delivers just a third of the audience it did in the days of Alan Bradley.

What has happened in that time? 

Well, where to start…

Once there were 2 channels, now Sky alone has over 600. Even just 10 years ago, pre smartphone, YouTube had just launched and a third of us accessed the internet via dial up. The time we spend online has doubled since then to over 20 hours a week, social media has gone mainstream and we live on our phones.  Advertisers now spend more on digital advertising  than on TV. It’s anticipated that Facebook advertising will overtake TV soon and Programmatic Advertising is hot.

So, in light of the above and with ITV delivering a third of what it is used to, who’d buy shares in ITV?!

Er.., well, I wish I had.

In 2009 the ITV share price was 23.25p. At the time of writing it is 205p.  An almost 9 fold increase.

So how does a company that delivers less than it ever has done, faced with a seismic explosion in competition and flat consumption ( we watch on average 221 minutes per person per day – same as 10 years ago), come to be worth almost 9 times more?

Nice work if you can get it.

So, why?

Well, I believe it’s because TV advertising possesses a number of unique qualities which have become increasingly standout because of the proliferation of other media options . Choice and competition have ironically made TV more special. The old media is the new media.

Firstly – reach.

Last year, of all commercial audiences over 5 million, 98% were delivered by ITV. If you want to guarantee big numbers (even if the big numbers are a lot less big than 25 years ago), TV is still the place to go. Yes, your video might go viral but 99% don’t. Yes, your banner ad campaign will generate 30 million impressions but nobody really saw it or remembers it. And, yes, you can stick your amusing corporate video on YouTube and be pleased with the 330 views you’ve had for free. Or, you can go on TV.

Ironically the fragmentation of media, which was originally anticipated as the death knell for TV has made it more special. Whilst there are many more places to spend a media budget, if you want to guarantee a big audience in a way that will be seen and remembered, then TV has few competitors.

Secondly – the ability to move.

It’s trite, it’s oft quoted, but it’s true, “nobody ever cried at a banner ad”. If emotional connections are the cornerstone of brands,  then TV with its increasingly cinematic delivery, can create them and other forms cannot.

Thirdly – prestige.

I suspect this is less appreciated, but in my experience it’s valid. There is something about going on TV that turns brands into proper brands. If you are on TV, you must be alright.  I’ve seen store staff walk a foot taller because their company is on TV and I’ve seen Chairmen beaming because the barman at the golf club mentioned the ad. Again, without being rude to banner ads, it wouldn’t happen with a banner ad campaign.

So, going back to Jenny Bradley, yes her father’s death delivered almost 5x the ratings that her noble deed in saving Kevin’s boy did. But TV today is worth more because its special qualities have come to be seen as even more precious in a world of almost limitless media choices, small audiences and a daily barrage of utterly forgettable commercial messages.

My advice?

Steer clear of trams.