Each month as part of our GO! Figure content series we will be spending time speaking with agency owners and leaders to get their opinions on a different topic directly affecting our industry.


GO!: Anthony, tell us about yourself, your experience and your role at the TV Agency? 

AO: Well, I’m the Managing Director at The TV Agency (TVA).  I’ve come from a background in media sales, starting my career with Carlton TV in London. To begin with, I was placed in a team managing accounts and responsible for some really big brands including; Disney, BMW, Halifax and BT.  

After a move back north, I started working for the regional sales team for Border, based in Carlisle. I had gone from seeing slots costing £100,000 to slots costing £250. The advertising dynamic was really different and despite Border covering a large area, the reach was fairly small, due to the low population. The advertising was massively localised, and so affordableMy role at Border was to manage existing campaigns and bring in new bookings, where I then moved on to Tyne Tees, as a business development manager. 

After four years there, I decided to set up on my own and founded TVA. I knew I was in a good position to help marketers who were new to TV to understand the process. I could act as a navigator if you like, to help them get from a concept to broadcast.  


GO!: How was The TV Agency formed? 

AO: I was offered a redundancy package from ITV and realised that, as scary as it was, there was never going to be a better time to start up on my own. Luckily, I had the backing from ITV and left on good terms, bringing with me a decent client base. I’d learned such a lot that I wanted to be able to share my knowledge with clients and advise them how to get the best from their TV campaign.  

Our speciality at TVA was that we had full control of the process. It was a personal goal of mine to make a million pounds of turnover in my first year of trading and when I shared that with my accountant, I could literally see his eyebrows raising in surprise! But I did it and it’s something I’m incredibly proud of achieving. 


GO!: What do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have when it comes to TV advertising? 

AO: People usually think TV advertising is going to be really expensive, so I’d say cost is often a concern. Secondly, with the rise of social media, sometimes I find clients are concerned that people aren’t watching TV anymore or at least not in the numbers they used to. 


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In terms of cost, there are so many cost effective ways to get an advert to TV. Some of the slots, for example, a daytime booking on VH1, can work out as little as £3. There are also opportunities to grab regional slots which can make your budget go further. The Borders region for example, covers a wide geographical area, yet the cost per advert remains low. It’s really part of our job here at TVA to dispel these misconceptions surrounding the cost.  

As for the notion that people don’t watch TV any more, I think that stems from the change in the way we consume media. The box is still very much the centre of the home. The beauty of TV viewing is that viewers tend to have a favourite channel or channels and so don’t have to go ‘searching’ for something to watch, as is the case with Netflix or one of the newer subscription VOD channels. In fact broadcast TV still accounts for around 63% of all video viewing, a huge figure when you consider all of the other media options available to us now. 


GO!: What are some of the challenges brand owners face when thinking about investing in TV advertising? 

AO: I’d say that brand owners really need to make sure the advert they’re putting out is in line with their goals and key performance indicators. It’s that old adage, that you can have the most creative advert going, but if it’s not doing what it set out to achieve, then it’s wasted. In a similar fashion, it’s no use to have the production side of things boxed off without the right scheduling plan to deliver it and vice versa.


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Sometimes, brand owners tend not to maximise their exposure within their advert. My pet hate is watching a TV advert and you have no idea what it’s for. Unless it’s purely for creative appeal, then as a marketer, you shouldn’t be shy in telling your viewers what you want them to do. It’s ok to be direct. It’s ok to repeat your brand name several times. We’d always offer guidance and make suggestions to our clients about how they might ensure their adverts are most effective. 


GO!: What do you predict the TV buying landscape will look like for brands in 2021? 

AO: I think that media buying decisions will be very last minute. The situation we find ourselves in is changing all the time and as the goalposts move, it will be reflected in how and when we see clients place their ads. 

Sometimes in TV, we’re working to 12 month plans/ contracts, but just now, we could pull things together in a matter of two to three weeks if needed. Ideally, I’d suggest a client gives themselves a minimum of six to eight weeks to allow enough time for them to navigate the process, especially if they’re new to advertising on TV. 

As the world starts to re-open, I’m sure there’ll be a V shaped bounce back and we will start to see people wanting to go for meals and experience leisure activities again. 


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I also think some markets will be slower to return to capacity, possibly the likes of the travel industry. For those businesses, the situation is changeable in line with government guidelines and I’d expect their media buying to come in fairly last minute, once we have the green light to travel. 


GO!: Why do you think traditional media channels such as TV and radio should not be underestimated right now? 

AO: Well I’m sure you’d agree that we’re all watching more TV than ever before! The viewing figures are raised which is great news for anyone wishing to launch a TV advertising campaign. You know, the TV set still remains central in the living room, it’s kind of the hub, around which families gather to spend their down time. It’s always there similar to an old pair of slippers! It’s familiar and viewers know what to expect from it. Even if viewers aren’t consciously watching, the TV is still often ‘on’ as a background presence. The screen never really goes away. 

There’s growth too in Broadcaster VOD, with channels such as All4 and ITV hub, where people are more likely to binge watch a series of something in one hit. They now have the time to do that and buying airtime on these channels, means you have a captive audience. 

TV is still seen as a trusted form of media. 


GO!: What importance do you put into building relationships with your brands, in addition to delivering the work? 

AO: Without sounding patronising, I like to see our role here at TVA as offering a ‘hand holding’ service. We have years of expertise and industry knowledge and so we are best placed to guide our clients through the whole process. That might start with an initial phone call and continue all the way through the concept and production, up until the advert is broadcast. From that point, we are then actively managing and optimising campaigns, often in the form of weekly reports and meetings. It’s a chance to involve clients with the TV advertising process, but more importantly to check they are happy that what they set out to do is being achieved with their campaign. 

I’d say we’re pretty heavily involved with our clients, to really make sure they understand what is happening at each point in the process and this is especially true for those who are new to TV advertising. We were joking about this the other day, with one of our newer clients, eToro, who said that they felt like we were members of the eToro marketing team rather than an independent agency! Perhaps we need to lay off those phone calls…. 


GO!: What advice would you give to your fellow marketers regarding the uncertainty of the year ahead? 

AO: It’s simple. Don’t EVER lose sight of the goal you have. Whether it’s yours or your clients, it’s so important to stay on track and remain focused on what you set out to achieve. Diversions can and will occur, but keeping the end goal in sight is a sure fire way to success. 


Anthony O’Neill is Managing Director at the TV Agency. As GO! Network members they help brands use TV advertising & video production to deliver using analysis and creativity. If you’d like to learn more about our agency network or get advice on specific challenges, get in touch here