Does TV advertising still work for food and drink brands?
Bernard Matthews would probably have succeeded with his turkey farms even if TV had never been invented but he wouldn’t have been the household name that he undoubtedly became. Matthews and his wife at one time lived in, and ran their business from, a very large, dilapidated house. They had two rooms to themselves and used all the others to hatch turkey eggs, raise the birds and finally slaughter them. That kind of driven determination deserves to succeed, and invariably does. But it was an Ad Agency with a very good idea that transformed the Matthews business from one known only to people in the poultry industry into the highest profile and most successful poultry producer in the country.
The agency sold Bernard Matthews on the wisdom of putting his brand on national television and then, not without considerable difficulty, persuaded him to front his own ads and describe his turkey meat products as “Bootiful”. Matthews, in fact, had never had that sort of accent and was far from convinced that the idea was sound, but, to his credit, he accepted that he was talking to people who knew just as much about their business as he knew about his and agreed. That was in 1980 and from the moment the very first commercial appeared the Bernard Matthews sales graph went vertical. Simply a good idea very well executed.
Would it work today? Yes, of course it would.
OK, so people watch TV differently, they have a multitude of channels to choose from, Ad breaks can be easily skipped, they can absorb news constantly without needing to watch TV and almost everything can be played back minus Ads, but television is still the action medium that consistently delivers. Like most manufacturers food and drink makers benefit from the economics-of-scale. Anyone who makes and sells five million loaves every week buys his flour at a far better price than would be the case if he only made and sold five thousand loaves. Turning a small bakery into a national brand is a job for TV. In all the discussions about the value of TV advertising compared to decades ago one factor is always missed or ignored; picture quality. Today’s TV sets give a picture that is massively better than anything we were all watching back in the seventies and eighties and, as well as poor picture quality the average TV set was considerably smaller. Today, food and drink products can be shown on television in a way that was once only possible in a glossy magazine ad or in the cinema.
Television allows you to communicate with a lot of people very quickly. Sure, social media does a bit of that too and clever virals have enjoyed some success but TV is where the serious people still put their money. Choice of media has never been greater but television is still the premier league. If a food and drink manufacturer has his production, distribution and service levels sorted, a good TV campaign will work like nothing else. The UK has some of the highest standards in the world when it comes to TV advertising, particularly food and drink advertising. There are fairly strict criteria you need to meet before you can run a commercial on TV in the first place. Those guidelines and rules help, for the most part, to keep standards high. On television you are in good company. You can deploy superb imagery, quality performances, music, humour and you can convey an idea. Nothing comes near TV in what it offers food and drink manufacturers. It is still quite bootiful.
About the author.
Roy McCallum joined the advertising industry in the mid 1970s and has created campaigns for a wide variety of food and drink brands over the years. He was a founder and creative director of Levy McCallum and is a consultant to Root & Toot.