Thinkbox's TV training course smashes annual target in a week

TV Masters: online course led by Thinkbox's Matt Hill
TV Masters: online course led by Thinkbox's Matt Hill

Why are thousands of people signing up to sit through 14 hours of training videos about TV advertising?

A new training course by Thinkbox to fix the media industry’s “growing education gap” in TV has quickly exceeded the marketing body’s expectations by generating 2,000 sign-ups in its first week.

The commercial TV industry marketing body’s free TV Masters training course launched on 12 October and teaches planning and buying theory as well as advertising effectiveness and the impact of data and technology on the medium.

Thinkbox had set an annual target of getting 2,000 people to sign up to the course, which runs three times a year, but it has already surpassed this number after a week.

Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s chief executive, described the course’s sign-up rate as “staggering”. 

“We thought we were being ambitious by aiming to quadruple our annual training reach with this new course. But overnight the response and reception has been amazing – from all corners of the industry and at all levels,” she said. “Even the tech giants have been signing up. Turns out there’s a huge appetite to find out how today’s TV is transforming and how to get the best out of it for brands. Who knew?”

Media agency staff account for 40% of the sign-ups, with people from creative agencies adding another 2%. People who work for brands make up 14%, while 19% of those enrolled work at broadcast media owners. Just over a fifth (21%) are "Other", while there are also a small number of university students (2%) and freelancers (1%) on the course.

Kerry Chilvers, brands director at Direct Line Group, said: “TV remains the cornerstone of our media strategy, but as more media channels continue to emerge, it’s becoming increasingly hard for our people to keep up to date with the knowledge and skills they need to plan effectively. And as all brand teams naturally become more native to digital, it is critical for us to continue to ensure they build their understanding of TV."

The course is led by Matt Hill, research and planning director at Thinkbox, and comprises a series of online videos that people must view within two months in order to complete the course. There is also the option to take a final exam and the course is certified by the IPA and CPD UK. 

Before the pandemic, Thinkbox ran half-day training courses for groups of about 30 people to go through “the nuts and bolts of TV planning”; these would attract up to 800 people each year, Hill told Campaign

“In the last five years, you can easily progress quite far in your [media agency] career without going anywhere near a TV plan,” Hill explained. “We realised that there was a growing education gap; the language within the world of TV is very different to the language of online search optimisation or social media advertising and online display. This was a growing problem.”

However, Sarah Treliving, Goodstuff Communications’ digital, data and technology director, said she had found that clients “know what they want from TV” and that marketers were generally very comfortable talking about concepts like reach frequency and audience targeting.

“Digital is a whole other world of metrics that are actually more nebulous, less proven and harder to grasp,” she said. “Advertisers tend to be fluent in the currency of TV but the plethora of metrics in digital make it much harder to brief, especially in congruence with ‘offline’ media.”

Hill’s planning team at Thinkbox, which includes heads of planning Zoe Harkness and Rupen Shah, plus planning controller Sam Olive, began writing the course content shortly after the pandemic lockdown took hold in March. The 14 hours of video content were filmed in August  and edited in September. 

He added: “[The pandemic] worked in our favour to a certain degree, because all our events are off the table anyway… we knew we weren't going to be able to do this by face to face training, but that the opportunity really lay for us in creating an on-demand course. We'd be able to get much bigger numbers of people through the door and have more immersive content. There's only so much you can do in one morning, but online we can really cover off quite a bit of the nuance and detail around TV and how to get the best out of it.”

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