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Thinkbox on coronavirus, how TV has responded, and the advertising implications

Lindsey Clay, CEO of Thinkbox and President of the Global TV Group
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In association with The Future of TV Advertising UK fortnight, we are publishing a series of seven Q&A sessions with leading television executives to get their insights into the Covid-19 crisis and its implications. In this interview, it is Lindsey Clay, CEO of Thinkbox and President of the Global TV Group, giving her views. 


Question: What has impressed you the most with how TV has reacted to the coronavirus crisis?

Lindsey: The speed, the positivity, and the creativity. TV is a vital part of our lives at all times and has a responsibility to keep people informed and entertained – and to reassure them that life is carrying on. There may be tumbleweed on the streets, but our screens are bursting with life. The broadcasters have been swift to adapt their schedules and rise to the challenge. We have seen TV’s creativity at its broadest, from initiatives on mental health and the clap for carers, to a brilliant Saturday Night Takeaway with no audience, chat and news shows shot from home, classic sport reinvigorated, and Jamie Oliver helping us to keep cooking and carry on.

Equally, the focus on advertisers has been just as impressive. From broadcasters’ creative teams burning the midnight oil to help suddenly-constrained advertisers get on TV as easily as possible, to their helping advertisers to defer where necessary rather than penalising them for changes they’ve been forced to make. This is the true spirit of long-term partnership.


Question: Worldwide Chairman and CEO of MediaCom, Stephen Allan, said broadcast media are facing a “perfect storm”, referring to the fact that TV audiences have gone up but channels risk running out of shows. What is your take on that and what, specifically, are CNN doing to combat this perfect storm?

Lindsey: It’s a challenge but, as above, broadcasters are demonstrating great innovation and agility. Plus, it is important to remember that programme budgets have mostly been deferred. So, we can look forward to a post-pandemic glut of great programming. In the meantime, they have a lot on the stocks and vast back catalogues – back catalogues that have helped propel services like Netflix to prominence (and which are now being taken back from Netflix). With more time at home, audiences are experimenting (nostalgia viewing is huge), and a repeat is only a repeat if you have seen it before.

At Thinkbox, we’ll continue celebrating fabulous commercial programming and encouraging the industry to watch around. But our main job is to demonstrate to advertisers the superior effectiveness of TV and the benefits of spending through a crisis for those who can. If you want to speak to people at the moment – and most brands should – TV is your voice.


Question: A lot of advertisers have reacted in a positive manner to the crisis. What has been your favourite TV ad during this period and why?

Lindsey: There are loads (in fact there is a Crisis Creativity player on our website here). But I’m a sucker for an emotional ad and I particularly like the Tesco Food love stories one. It is a seamless part of their existing campaign and works just as well if not better in Lockdown. Tesco are definitely having a good crisis.


Question: Many media analysts believe this pandemic will accelerate huge changes in consumer behaviour. With that in mind, what is the future of TV advertising?

Lindsey: TV’s future is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed. Now the changes that were already happening in TV via data and tech are accelerating and creating a hugely bright future for TV advertising. TV is becoming a marketer’s Swiss army knife, performing vital roles at every stage of the purchasing funnel – not just the brand building it is so well known for.

When we come through this crisis, advertisers will look to increase their efficiency as budgets may be reduced. The increasing availability and targeting capabilities of addressable TV advertising, for example, will be a powerful way to deliver this. And, advertisers are likely going to want to reduce the risk of their advertising investments. We know from studies such as ‘Profit Ability’ and ‘Demand Generation’ that TV delivers the highest returns with the least risk, so this bodes well for its future.

The Future of TV Advertising UK – streamed conference on Thursday, April 30

If you are interested in the future of TV advertising, check out the one-day, streamed thought-leadership conference – The Future of TV Advertising UK – on Thursday April 30. This provides a full-day of streamed content to your desk. You can see the agenda here, and register to listen (free) here.


Hear what these execs are saying on coronavirus, how TV has responded, and the advertising implications…

Link to these Q&As…


Rob Bradley, Senior Vice President, CNN International Commercial

Christian Kurz, Senior VP, Global Consumer Insights at ViacomCBS

Sarah Jones, Director of Planning at Sky Media

Mark Trinder, Director of Commercial Sales and Partnerships, ITV

Kate McVeigh, Vice President, International Client Strategy and Development, CNBC International

Matt Salmon, Sales Director, Channel 4

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