Buying television is not as simple as it used to be…but a lot more fun

Posted by on Jul 12, 2011

If you ask any advertising pro today what the most impactful form of advertising is, I believe without a doubt they would tell you that “television” still rules.  Television commercials continue to have the greatest recall of any form of advertising and they also are determined to be the most influential on the buying decision.  That would have been the answer for the last 40 years.

With that having been said, has anything changed in the world?  Absolutely.  If you catch the consumer…you can make the desired impact.  The challenging part is to find them.  What’s new is the fragmentation of the mass audience.  If your target is aging baby boomers, no problem.  You can use the same approach you have always used.  With other demos you need a different approach.  Good luck finding the Millennials with merely the ultra-traditional 30 second television buy.  Boomers to Millennials are very different people but they both enjoy good entertainment.  Whether they admit it or not, everybody watches “television.”  It’s where they get their entertainment, the type of screen they are viewing, and how they engage that is dramatically changing and has created a challenging and fun new dynamic for the media group.

Let’s look at the opportunities that exist in today’s television world for the 30 second television commercial:

  • Traditional Broadcast TV. The unwired home, not having access to any cable networks, represents less than 10% of U.S. households…and is steadily declining.  Not a lot of viewing choices, in most markets there are less than 10 over the air channels to choose from, limited or no access to the internet and all viewing is done live.  Easy.
  • Cable TV. There is a cable network dedicated to virtually anything that interests you.  Homes with digital cable or satellite have hundreds of networks available (even if they primarily watch less than 16 channels).  The cable audiences may be small in comparison to the broadcast alternatives and potentially come with a premium price, but by adding enough network channels you can increase the audience for your message dramatically.  New in 2011 is the ability in select markets to run local ads to subscribers of the local fiber optic services (AT&T and Verizon) and satellite (Dish and Directv) potentially increasing your audience by 15% – 20%.

With DVR penetration currently around 40%, the level of time-shifted viewing continues to rise.  DVR owners watch a little more than 2 hours of time-shifted programming a week and watch nearly half of the recorded ads during playback.  Since the audience is actually watching more TV because of the DVR, the viewership in these households is actually increasing.  Being in specific programming like news, special events, and live sports programming as well as commercial placement in the first or last pod position of the commercial break are all effective techniques for increasing the commercial exposure.

  • Internet. The fastest growing segment for television program viewing is coming from the internet through computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets.  Approximately 68% of U.S households have broadband access and, virtually across the board, our favorite online activity is watching a video followed closely by using social networks.  Viewers streamed 28% more video and spent 45% more time watching video in 2010 than in 2009.  With numbers growing at this rapid pace it’s no wonder the amount of money advertisers are spending online is outpacing any other medium.

The top visited websites for non-television “television” viewing include web video sites like Hulu, Fancast, and iTunes or direct network sites to view content live or time shifted viewing.  More than 12% of all adults downloaded or watched a television program online in the last 30 days.  This represents a huge audience, yet still it’s nothing compared to the 21% of younger adults watching online.  And since nothing is for free…no skipping of commercials is allowed, it’s a great option.  Short commercial interruption gives advertisers an uncluttered environment for their message.  Studies have shown the majority of viewers accept this form of advertising.  When used in combination with more traditional television purchases it can have a tremendous impact on brand and message recall.

Television is alive and well in the world.  The audience is there.  The effectiveness of the commercial has not changed.  You just can’t reach it with a simple, singular channel.  The opportunities are limitless and media professionals need to offer our clients smart, effective and creative media solutions.  Buying television is not as simple as it once was…but can be more effective and a lot more fun.

– Phil Backe, HY Connect senior vice president, media director