Why Savvy Brands Are Still In Love With TV

Advertisers of all shapes and sizes have set their sights on making TV ads work harder and smarter. In fact, Unilever recently admitted that it had not allowed its TV ads to reach full effectiveness:

“We had too many pieces of traditional TV advertising and we took them off air before they reached full effectiveness. We now make fewer ads, show them for longer and reinvest the savings behind the best ones,” Unilever’s CFO Graeme Pitkethly said.

Keith Weed, Unilever’s CMO, continued the focus on maximising advertising returns during a speech at the IAB Annual Leadership Summit a week later. Weed threatened to pull ad spend from social media channels due to issues around fake news, hate speech, and improper use of data. He drove home the need for quality, effectiveness and ethics within the media industry. This stark review of the state of modern media carried echoes of P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard’s call to “clean up digital advertising” last year.

Many advertisers have been withdrawing ad spend from digital channels due to brand safety, viewability, and ad fraud controversies. Looking for other platforms to direct their ad budgets, it is no surprise that some migrated back to TV, which is, after all, now a measurable and optimisable marketing channel.

A realistic look at the role of TV in advertising

Despite sensational headlines announcing its death, TV is still a thriving part of today’s media landscape -- a channel with unbeatable reach and the ability to drive both online and offline engagement. While time spent viewing has dropped, it has not dropped by that much, and the average person still watches multiple hours of TV a day.

For advertisers, TV is still a $208 billion industry, and the rise of analytical technologies has made TV measurable and optimisable just like digital. It has also introduced a new level of targeting never before available for the medium.

Networks have introduced alternative ad formats too -- most notably, six-second ads, which give marketers other means to make strong impressions among engaged audiences. And the issues of brand safety and ad fraud are nonexistent, as advertisers know the content and context around which their creatives are running.

TV as a digital driver

In the wake of the media evolution, one of the most interesting and powerful things that has changed about TV is how it has become a primary driver of digital response. According to Accenture, about 90% of TV viewers watch with second-screen devices in hand or nearby.  

Marketers are taking advantage of second-screening behavioural patterns by optimising TV creatives to drive engagement across media platforms, ultimately ensuring the best possible ROI. Essentially, they are using TV to reach targeted audiences by making smartphones, tablets, and laptops an ally for TV-driven response.

While TV has traditionally been used for longer-term brand building, it can now also be about immediate impact too. It all depends on an advertiser’s goal. For Unilever, that may be the longer-term brand experience, where giving creatives time to resonate and establish recall ability is key. For other advertisers, the goal could be short-term response such as website sales. It’s not either/or anymore. 

Whether using TV for brand building or to drive immediate actions, data analysis is crucial to ensure optimal performance against KPIs. By analysing real-time spot and response data, advertisers get a clear view into what is working and what’s not with TV -- and leverage those insights to make sure ads run in the best content and times for performance.

At the end of the day, TV effectiveness means TV-driven response. And while that type of response is unique to each advertiser, the means to getting there is the same: using data to measure and optimise campaigns.  

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