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The rise of event ads

09 December 2010

As the advertising industry drags another tough year to a close it would be nice to think that despite all the budget squeezes, all the cost efficiencies, all the compromises, the ads themselves, at least, are something to be proud of.

But let's be honest. 2010 hasn't been adland's greatest creative moment. Not at all. It may be industry lore that a recession sparks a creative surge, but so far this time round there's little in the advertising portfolio to keep the lore alive.

There is reason for seasonal cheer, though. And it's all thanks to the rise and rise of a broadcasting phenomenon that has given television a new pull on advertisers' budgets and has made adland creatives fall back in love with the medium all over again.

The event ad break. We've always had them: half time in the big football match, the soap cliff hanger, the reality show showdown. Big shows with big audiences have always commanded an advertising premium; it's ITV's banker positioning. But now advertisers are taking appointment-to-view TV onto a new level, leveraging the cultural grip of an X Factor or a Downton Abbey to create showcase ad breaks.
And it's all being super-charged by social media. Now viewers are as likely to tweet about the new Yeo Valley blockbuster ad (those rapping farmers) by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, running exclusively in The X Factor breaks, as they are about Simon Cowell's snipes.

Event television is fostering event advertising. America's Super Bowl ad frenzy, when big brands spend millions of dollars on ads to run specially during the Super Bowl ad breaks (usually the most expensive and entertaining ads on US TV), is catching on over here.

With the news that ITV could take up to £25m from The X Factor's final weekend (that's about £250k per 30 second spot), it's clear that advertisers here are eager to take advantage of the audience surge.

The good news for ad agencies and production companies is that this new advertising showcase is likely to mean a boost in production budgets as more advertisers design blockbuster commercials especially tailored to run in such high profile slots. And with any luck the new super breaks will inspire a whole new creative renaissance. Now all we have to hope is that ITV can keep the event programming up.

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign

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