Advertising on

In November I realised a lifelong dream and went to New Zealand for a holiday. While I was there I have to admit I didn’t think about work AT ALL (sorry Councils), but I did notice a few interesting things to do with technology. These were:

  • – While watching the film Wall E on the plane it seemed like an accurate portrayal of a potential future.
  • – Digital cameras have changed behaviour – everyone, young and old, knows to check the screen to make sure it’s a good snap. Goodbye dodgy pics.
  • – Facebook, unlike many other forms of social media is all about the offline world, the website just facilitates offline activity.
  • – I only came across one place in the whole of New Zealand that had free WiFi – a tiny café. This was incredibly annoying.
  • – Starbucks staff, no matter where you are in the world, will now always ask the exact same question if you ask for an Earl Grey tea “Do you want space for milk?”
  • – Adverts on the BBC website are just as non-intrusive as those on any other publisher.

I did intend to moan about the backwardness of paid public WiFi, or go into a lengthy debate about how the internet must have something dastardly to do with the globalisation of the “Do you want space for milk?” question. Instead, I’m going to talk about why it would be a good thing for BBC websites to have advertising in the UK.

To do so, I’ll kick off with something everyone will understand: the BBC website is immensely popular, advertising on it could reduce the TV licence cost, saving you money. I’m not suggesting that all of the BBC media properties have advertising. I’m not even suggesting that their iPlayer should have advertising; I’m a fan of the BBC’s ad free programming as much as the next person. But ads on their website? I wouldn’t mind that one bit.

One of the great things about today’s display advertising is that it doesn’t intrude. Often it can be entertaining, beneficial and targeting really does make it more relevant. Display advertising on wouldn’t really affect the quality of the website experience in any way. It could be argued that it would add a new element to the editorial direction of the site, but the BBC is already competing for high quality visitors.

It seems to me that any resistance would be based around ‘tradition’ and a general resistance to advertising. In reality, advertising across would be a good thing in my opinion because I would welcome a discount in my £139.50 TV licence, even if it were a small amount. Perhaps then I can start paying off the holiday…

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    This is a great blog and I totally agree. Its a real shame that the role of (some) advertising does not feature on the political agenda given the debate about the BBC’s licence fee, ‘top slicing’ etc etc.


    Hey Steve, you can stop agonising about this. It’s not either/or. In fact, it’s the combination of the exciting, inspiring, moving, amusing – and sadly sometimes the only vaguely interesting – one-way communication of a TV ad (or radio, outdoor, print) that leads people to want to interact, the Meerkats being a perfect example. Fall in love with the TV ad, and then go and search for the website, become a fan, look for extra Meerkat loveliness online, or buy the toy: cause and effect. They managed to make people interested in car insurance through superb creativity. It could work for dentists too if they applied the same level of creativity. Don’t blame the medium.

    At Thinkbox, we can’t wait for there to be “an intense focus on advertising ROI” because then advertisers would spend a lot more on TV, assuming they’re doing proper econometrics, rather doing superficial tracking. Comparethemarket and other online brands spend more than 70% of their money on TV and I assume they are best placed to know what drives people online. Given that TV has NEVER been cheaper every brand should at least give TV a whirl to see what happens. That’s what you’d say about a new interactive opportunity that appeared, isn’t it?

    By the way, TV in the UK – linear and on-demand – is entirely digital as of last October, and no that doesn’t mean via the Internet.