The public may be experiencing frustration and disillusionment with the political classes and how they are handling Brexit, but Claire Enders is upbeat about the future for media and advertising.
“There is an optimisation of life and a culture of optimisation of life in the UK, which is completely absent” in other European countries, according to Enders. Speaking at the IAB Engage conference earlier this summer, she was referring to how the nation’s enthusiasm for shopping has been driven by factors such as home ownership, credit card possession and a high number of working women. This, along with an early embrace of e-commerce and an innovative advertising industry, has driven online advertising expenditure over the past 20 years.
And television will continue to remain significant, she added. Television still commands huge reach and “TV is actually the core locus of branding and has remained that for the 23 years in which the conversation has been taking place about how online can address brands.”
Crucially for advertisers, “the majority of the population is aged over 40 and the majority of consumption is now among the post 43 [age group]”. As well as being the most valuable consumer demographic, this age group also watches a lot of television, Enders pointed out. “We have a very intensive, very high-quality television culture and that is constantly renewing demand.”
While online spending may have overtaken TV expenditure, Enders was at pains to stress this is no zero-sum game. “Advertisers here over-advertise to people because they're innovative,” she said. “They want to try things, and then they have all of their existing systems which deliver the bread and butter of their business.” There’s also the fact that Brits tend to be a sceptical bunch who aren’t easily persuadable. “So of course you have to over-advertise to people who are very picky about what they spend their money on.
“There are a lot of profound cultural elements that cause us to believe that the UK will always be at the forefront of the world in terms of innovation and advertising,” she said.
But the media environment is changing. Enders was unfazed by the growth of Netflix - “essentially television is very cheap and very, very effective” - and more interested in the arrival of Amazon as a third force to challenge the Google/Facebook duopoly. “ Its consumer data, and knowledge of consumers, is definitely a huge advantage versus Twitter, or Snap, or any of the news brands,” she stated.
We live in “scale world”, Enders observed - one where data is vital. “The advantage really lies with those people who've got the most data and who know the most about how to use it.”
Even a news brand like the Guardian, which was early to embrace the online format, gathers only a very small amount of data compared to the US giants. “In fact, its investment in managing data is really very, very difficult for it to sustain,” Enders suggested. “I mean, how can a business that turns over £220 million a year - that's the Guardian - be actually in a position to match the business of Google in terms of any aspect of the delivery of its advertising?” The consequence, she argued, is that “inherently, you're going to see an accentuation of the dominance of the first”.
Taking this back to television, “you can see the importance of the Sky-Virgin alliance, which supports Sky's great long-term investment in AdSmart and addressable and programmatic advertising on television - which is what is driving the growth in TV”.
Enders also expects that online channels will not be able to dodge regulation around content for much longer. “Do you think that it's possible for YouTube, when it is the same size as Channel 4 [in terms of advertising revenue], to have no controls on advertising and no controls on content? I don't.” Less than ten years after Sky launched, she pointed out, its ads were being regulated.
“Online media need to take the same level of responsibility for their content, for their impacts, and above all, for their societal impact, as all of the offline media have been forced to do,” she said. “Now, they didn't do it willingly, but after 40, 50 years of regulation, you won't find any company - Channel 4, ITV, BBC (although it doesn’t take ads) - you won't find any of these companies not trying to hit the highest standards in the world for editorial.”