Digital Killed the Television Star

A recent study that covered marketers from both B2B and B2C companies revealed that 80% of them planned to increase digital spend over the coming months. The statistics are in and it doesn’t look good for television. Supposedly.

But is it really as grave as it is made out to be?

The crown for the biggest television event in recorded history goes to the Super Bowl without a slither of doubt. Year after year, the ratings are even more baffling, the total number of viewers are even bigger and better, and the dollars spent by brands go through the roof. So what was the big number this year? A whopping $4.5 million for a 30 second spot. A spot of the same length during the Academy Awards would cost you less than half of that.

We’ll let you soak in that number for a bit. Are you wondering, baffled, amazed or are you nodding in agreement while thinking, ‘Oh, I so saw this coming’?

Can you really say that television is dying a slow death on the altar of the digital wave?

The most expensive television commercial ever made was the famous 2004 Chanel Ad starring Nicole Kidman. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, it reportedly cost the brand a whopping $42 million. However, as on date, it has over 3 million views on YouTube, has been written about several times in various publications and is still discussed. Over a decade later!


Chanel repeated history last year. They released a spot for their most popular fragrance that starred Gisele Bundchen this time and was directed by Baz Luhrmann. Again. The difference, however, was that this time the ad was released digitally across their social media channels. It was shared over 340,00 times across the socialverse just 7 days after it was released and has over 10 million views on YouTube at last check. Chanel has 6.65 million followers on Twitter and over 14 million Likes on Facebook.


What makes a brand like Chanel, which has already carved for itself a niche identity in the minds of consumers over the globe, bite on the digital bullet? Simple. Because that’s where all the action is. And who wouldn’t want in on that? In essence, the ad showed the brand’s growth and incorporated a more modern take of the ‘Chanel woman’. The narrative is reminiscent of the 2004 spot and holds on to the luxurious charm and exclusivity that has come to be associated with the brand. But it’s clear that finding a space on the digital playground is not a matter of choice any more.

The distinct roles played by television and digital


The failure or success of an ad, whether digital or on television, depends on the extent to which it achieves its campaign’s goals. And while awareness, engagement and customer mind-space are all what brands are aiming to achieve through their initiatives, they all need to translate to one final goal – a purchase.

If you were to go by the traditional purchase funnel theory, what television does is get ‘you’ to everyone who is out there in front of it. It is awareness targeted at the entire universe that exists out there, a subset of which could be a potential customer for your brand and could translate to an actual buy.

Digital has changed those rules and restructured the purchase decision funnel. It gives brands the almost bizarre but tantalising option of skimming that wide entry point of the funnel to figure out who they really want to reach. You’re no longer targeting the entire ‘universe’ of customers, just yours. Sounds like it’s a lot more risky but also like it’s a lot more precise too.

Taking it to the next level with digital


While television brings your brand to your audience, where you take it from there depends on digital. The latter goes beyond just awareness to indicate interest. When a customer chooses to join in on your social network, in a way you achieve the first step of that purchase funnel. From here on, whether you choose to find a place in that customer’s universe or get drowned by the millions of other brands vying for their attention depends on you.

The IKEA Norway social catalogue campaign is a stellar example of the power of digital.


This campaign shows the seamless balance of digital with traditional advertising. A simple contest that ran for 4 weeks got them an entire digital campaign, created a treasure trove of user generated content, got some amazing engagement and a digital catalogue. For free!

Your audience on social media, once it chooses to be interested in you, is a pot of gold that you can choose to cultivate or run the risk of ignoring. If you engage them really well, you’re cutting the path to purchase short by several orders of magnitude right there. They are constantly aware, interested and desire your brand. From there on, the journey to an actual purchase is quicker and not forced. The only challenge then lies in captivating that coveted mind space, digging a trench and staying put without letting your competition in.

On the digital playing field, everyone starts at the same level. While being visible on other television and other forms of media adds to awareness of your brand in general, whether or not you make it big on digital is in no way dependent on it.The secret behind making it big and achieving that oh-so-coveted virality depends on just one thumb-rule – make yourself interesting enough to be noticed. That, of course, is easier said than done. But it clearly depends on how deep your wallet can go.

Dollar Shave Club began in March 2012 as a membership service providing razors by mail. When Michael Dubin, the co-founder and CEO of Dollar Shave Club, decided to make a YouTube video promoting his line of high quality razors, all he had was a good product and an honest idea. In 2012, he spent $4,500 dollars to produce a video which he himself starred in and spoke about just what his company could do for its customers. It was genuine, funny and entertaining. The result was a video that has over 18 million views on YouTube, is still discussed as a gigantic viral hit and that brought his brand the kind of publicity that’s hard to imagine.


Simply put, the difference between television and digital lies in the way it charms the audience. It makes sense to harness the power and reach of television. With television, you’re calling for attention and expecting the guy with the remote will just by chance, not press the red button on the remote. But digital is pervasive and is as ingrained in our lives today as say coffee or a commute. With an omnipresent and an almost omniscient digital footprint, you carve a little space for your brand in the mind of your audience. The challenge there on, is how well you keep up the act and stay there.


So, digital killed the television star. Or did it?