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Why TV Advertising Works: A Comprehensive Guide

TV advertising - Why It Works

TV advertising - Why It Works

The world’s first TV advert was broadcast almost 80 years ago – and in that time TV has grown to become the most dominant form of advertising across the globe. Even in an age of changing media habits and digital media giants, it remains a colossal force for brands. The simple reason being; it’s ultra effective. It delivers short term results as well as long term brand-building objectives. Here’s a few reasons why it works so well…

Content:

Scale

Reach

Creating Stand Out

Halo Effect

TV Advertising Costs

Targeting

TV Advertising Effectiveness: Measurement

 

 TV advertising scale

Scale

The scale of any advertising medium is a vital factor in determining its’ effectiveness. ‘Scale’ can be defined as the ability to reach a large number of people in a short space of time. Since the advent of digital TV the sheer number of channels has mushroomed, from those with near-universal appeal, through to those with niche subject matter and audiences. Meaning there are very few audiences that can’t be engaged through TV, it’s safe to say TV exists on a truly massive scale.  

The latest innovations in how video content is delivered to consumers might make you think TV would shrivel. But in reality, it has maintained scale and remains the most popular form of video by a significant margin. TV constitutes almost 80% of the average person’s daily video consumption – against just over 6% for YouTube and 4% for SVOD (BARB/comScore/Broadcaster stream data/Ofcom/IPA Touchpoints/Rentrak 2016). We talk a bit more about all of that here ‘TV Remains Dominant’.

‘Scale’ can also be defined in another way; the size of television sets themselves. TV is the biggest, loudest media device in the average household. Desktop PCs with modestly sized monitors are hidden away in corners and home offices, laptops and tablets – by their nature – have smaller sized screens and mobile devices are at the other end of the spectrum. In fact, apart from outdoor billboards and cinema screens (which can’t compete when it comes to reach) you can’t deliver an ad on a more bombastic scale than on the TV screen.

What’s more, with TV technology becoming cheaper and ever-more accessible, ownership continues to grow, whilst average screen sizes are also getting larger. So, at the consumer’s own expense, the standout impact of TV advertising continues to increase.

But what is really important about the huge scale of TV as a medium is the size of the audiences it can deliver concurrently; nothing else has a reach like TV.

 

 TV advertising reach

Reach

TV’s scale naturally means it can reach huge numbers of people. It’s an immensely popular medium across all demographic groups and is uniquely positioned to deliver the largest audiences, in a short space of time. This level of reach is unparalleled and is one of the most important benefits of advertising on TV.

According to BARB (Jan – Jun 2016) the average viewer in the UK watches over 3 ½ hours of TV per day. And despite the rise of on-demand services and set-top boxes, 86% of that is still live broadcast. This means that the average UK viewer sees 45 TV ads every day, 6 more than they did a decade ago.

The facts speak volumes. An average broadcast TV campaign of 400 TVRs (the standard buying currency for television advertising) in the UK gets 237 million views. Commercial TV reaches almost 70% of the UK population per day, over 90% in a week and 98% in a month (BARB 2016). No other medium gets close.

This extraordinary reach is innate to live broadcasting. By broadcasting major events of near-universal interest, as they happen (the Superbowl, the Olympic Games or a political debate) TV can muster the largest, broadest audience possible. The commercials around these events can therefore deliver a single message, simultaneously, to a vast audience; which – by virtue of synchronisation – brings additional benefits, creating standout whilst catalysing TV’s halo effect.

 

TV advertising stand out

Types Of TV Advertising: Creating Stand Out

So what is it that gives TV advertisements greater ‘standout’? In short, it’s just the nature of the medium. An advert on a large screen that dominates the home living space immediately has prominence, whilst also offering great creative scope with which to deliver an impactful message.

In addition to this, TV ads are delivered in such a way that lifts them up from the clutter. A web or print page may display several different advertisements all at the same time – whilst also trying to compete with the content itself. TV ads benefit from dedicated space and a receptive audience.

With clever targeting it’s also possible to deliver TV ads that match the context they appear in. And with more relevant content comes even greater standout – the audience are actively engaged and more likely to give their full attention.

The creative scope of TV also helps achieve standout. Video on a large screen provides plenty of room to create narratives and emotional engagement, and done right, can be far more impactful than other forms of advertising. DCM (Digital Cinema Media) explains how cinema ads are “processed by the brain more effectively” and are “more powerful and emotionally engaging” due to the size of the screen and the focus the audience are inclined to give.

TV provides those same benefits to far larger audiences. “TV is a major part of everyday life and the foundation of the biggest brands. IPA Touchpoints shows that going to the cinema accounts for 0.4% of the average person’s media day; watching TV accounts for 48%” (Lindsey Clay, Chief Exectuive at Thinkbox). So when considering any media plan, remember TV is still be the most effective and practical medium to achieve the objective of ‘standing out’.

 

Halo effect tv adverts

Halo Effect

If creating standout is the equivalent of switching on a light, then the halo effect is the equivalent of the glow it casts. Because TV has the ability to deliver a cultural impact: creating trust and fame, the effects of a TV advertisement can carry across an entire brand, not just the individual products or services being advertised.

This is of particular importance to digital products, services or e-commerce. TV ads can lend an element of something tangible and an air of credibility – when something appears on TV, it somehow becomes more ‘real’. Many brands have quickly gone from unheard of start-up to household name thanks to a well-planned TV campaign. And once you’ve made the consumer accept the brand as a viable proposition, other forms of advertising will reap the benefits.

Adding TV to your marketing mix has a significant effect on the performance of other channels. The crucial elements of trust and fame that TV creates makes all your marketing work harder. And campaigns that use TV and online together are twice as efficient as those that incorporate brand advertising with other kinds of activation channels (IPA, ‘Advertising Effectiveness: the long and short of it’, 2011).

TV’s halo effect can reach across a brand’s entire portfolio of products too, not just its marketing activity. According to a report from Ebiquity/Payback 4 in 2014, 37% of TV’s total sales effect is felt by products not directly advertised. A notable example of a company that has achieved great success through this halo effect is Apple – which, whilst making a significant marketing push during the iPod launch, enjoyed increased sales across all product lines: with considerable uplift of computer sales during a time when those specific products were not being advertised at all.

This halo effect is, in part, thanks to the way that stand-out TV advertising can stimulate conversation and word-of-mouth marketing – the holy grail of credible messaging. TV ads remain the most talked-about form of advertising. “Asked on which medium they thought they were likely to find advertising they would talk about face-to-face or on the phone, 58% of the UK said TV. The next closest was social networks with 10%” (Ipsos Media CT/Thinkbox, ‘TV Nation’, 2014). Whether it generates chats around the office water-cooler, or brings a new jingle or catchphrase into popular culture, an ad that successfully beams that halo will bring positive results for weeks, months or even years after its broadcast… long after it’s delivered the results that were actually paid for.

 

TV advertising costs

TV Advertising Costs

TV is not as expensive as many believe. Planned carefully, TV can be very cost effective, with budgets similar to those of your online activity. We’ve discussed it on our blog post TV Advertising Costs: A Complete Guide, in simple terms, as well as more in-depth with the over-riding point being – properly done, TV is worth every penny.

Where once advertisers only had 2 or 3 channels to choose from, which kept costs relatively high, digital TV now provides a plethora of channels with ad space. The increased supply inevitably brought costs down but, perhaps more importantly, also opened up opportunities for different media buying tactics. Smaller media agencies are able to perform last-minute buys to take advantage of cheaper inventory – seeking out relevant opportunities even with constrained budgets.

Thanks to this more intelligent planning costs efficiencies are also improving. Targeting specific audiences can ensure ad messages are focused only on suitable audiences resulting in minimal wastage. TV campaigns can then be optimised, on the fly, to keep emphasis on the most cost-efficient spots and minimise over-exposure.

So when it comes to ROI, TV campaigns can provide particularly impressive performance. And that may not even take into account the improved performance of other forms of advertising, achieved through TV’s halo effect.

 

tv advert targeting

Targeting

Despite popular perception, TV campaigns can be heavily targeted. The advent of digital TV has led to a vast array of channels for the viewer to choose from. Even very niche audiences can be reached through TV, with very little wastage and plenty of scope to provide highly relevant, engaging content.

Due to the enormous scale and reach of TV, advertisements can be delivered to virtually anyone – regardless of demographic. Male, female, older, younger, richer, poorer; they can all be targeted with the right media buy. This subsequently makes it possible to better understand the impact of ad campaigns on particular groups – which in turn can inform future marketing efforts.

Similarly, it’s possible to target audiences on a geographical basis. Be they entire regions or country, or hyper-targeted locales, targeting by location has various benefits. Switching areas during a TV campaign can be an intelligent way to optimise, taking advantage of lower cost spots which may reach a very similar audience.

The large variety of channels and programming also provides plenty of scope for clever media planning. Advertisers can speak to appropriate audiences, even if their target audience can’t be broken down on demographics. Furthermore, it allows creatives to deliver a message that is contextually appropriate – engaging on the same level as the programming it appears next to, and increasing standout.

 

tv advertising measurement

TV Advertising Effectiveness: Measurement

TV is as accountable as any other medium, it’s just harder to count. With the right tools, the return of a TV campaign can be very accurately calculated. This is how we know, definitively, quite how effective TV advertising can be.

From a media agency perspective, the careful measurement of campaign performance is no mean feat: but on the client-side, all that matters is that accurate results are delivered. And behind the scenes, the processes at play are becoming more and more sophisticated, with machine-learned attribution models delivering levels of insight every bit as detailed as one might expect from a digital campaign – perhaps even more so. After all, few online adverts could claim audiences of millions from a singular moment in time.

Apart from showing the impressive ROI in black and white, advances in TV campaign analysis also permit optimisation on a more nuanced level than ever before. The ability to continuously monitor and adjust a TV campaign puts impressive results within easy reach.

In terms of brand-building, TV’s ability to create standout and a halo effect across other media may have longer term benefits that are harder to measure; but if a TV campaign in itself delivers impressive returns, does it really matter that it’s hard to quantify the (not paid for) momentum TV can generate? Or perhaps the question should be, how long do you think it will be before some cunning data scientists work out how to measure it anyway?

When they do, it will only serve to make the case for TV advertising even stronger.

Conclusion

So there you have it: some of the fundamental reasons why TV remains the most effective medium for advertisers. It’s a natural fit for the delivery of marketing messages to a large audience; and has proved itself resilient in the face of extraordinary technological change. And if TV could hold up against the digital revolution and the shifts in audience behaviour that followed, it looks likely to stand its ground for many decades to come.