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Changing perceptions: TV is an optimised marketing channel

With a prime-time 30-second ad on ITV costing between £10,000 and £30,000, and a commercial during one of Channel 4’s prime shows costing an average of £20,000 for 30 seconds of airtime, you’d be forgiven for questioning the value these advertising spots can deliver versus spend on a digital counterpart. Yet it’s been revealed the biggest names in digital – Amazon, Just Eat, and Netflix – invested a staggering £5.27 billion in TV ad space in 2016.

So what do they know that we don’t?

Of course the traditional reason for investing in TV – its exceptional reach – still applies. In the UK, the average TV viewer watches two hours and 22 minutes of commercial TV each day, including 45 TV ads. That equates to over 2.6 billion TV ads served across the country last year.

But it is not just TV’s reach that is driving the digital giants to invest – it’s also their unique understanding of the power TV holds to drive digital activity, which in turn makes TV highly measurable and optimisable. Not only can advertisers blend TV’s vast reach with precise targeting to maximise impact, but they also have the means to accurately identify viewers, quantify ROI, and use attribution data to optimise on-air spots – which means advertisers know exactly how much ‘bang’ they are getting for their TV ‘buck’.

Measuring TV’s impact across touch points
Responses to TV ads can be tracked across every stage of a consumer’s path to purchase, from instant activity on mobile or desktop that occurs minutes after the TV spot has aired, to subsequent interactions that take place months later.

TV inspired activity on the brand’s own website can be monitored, but the range of measurement also extends beyond brand websites into areas such as search. For instance, if a viewer searches for a brand via Google then buys a product through Amazon, the sale can still be attributed to the TV ad by tracking the calls to action in the ad creative and wider campaign messaging.

The same principle applies to mobile app installs and in-app activity. A fast-food company would now be able to distinguish between customers inspired by its TV ad to instantly install its app and order food, and those who installed after seeing the ad, but ordered at a later date.

Last but not least is SMS – a tracking method that works particularly well for businesses such as charities that use outbound marketing. Not only can a charity measure the number of one-off text donations driven by a TV ad, it can also see how many of these SMS donations are subsequently converted into regular contributions via telesales.

What responses can be measured?
The main response brands are looking to attribute to TV ads is likely to be sales, but responses will vary greatly by company. An automotive business may wish to track test drives, while a university will be more interested in prospectus requests. Other companies may determine the success of their TV campaign by its impact on newsletter sign ups, monthly subscriptions, or call centre contacts. Both online interactions and offline interactions – such as footfall in retail stores – can be attributed to TV campaigns as well as other marketing such as digital and out-of-home (OOH).

How are insights used?
Immediate and actionable insights gained from response data can be used to quickly determine the days, dayparts, channels, networks, genres, and creatives that are performing well – and which are not. This data can be used to optimise TV campaigns mid-flight to ensure ads reach the most relevant audiences at the ideal moment – reducing wastage, increasing sales, and maximising returns. Analytics can also be used to look at historical buy and response data to identify which spots will drive the greatest engagement within a specific budget, giving a brand the insights it needs to optimise future ad campaigns.

In the longer term, these insights can illustrate the total value of TV campaigns, including adstock return and utility of spend. The impact of TV advertising on the efficiency of other online and offline marketing channels can also be assessed. For example, an increase in brand awareness resulting from a TV campaign could lead to a higher click-thru rate on marketing emails or increased response to digital campaigns. This measurability gives brands higher confidence in TV advertising along with control over what they spend, enabling them to prove the success of their campaigns with timely insights. For broadcasters, it allows them to fully understand the value of inventory and price it accordingly.

As the online businesses that are investing their hard-earned budgets have already discovered, TV advertising is now just as measurable as online media. Using response data from a variety of sources, TV campaigns can be measured and optimised in just the same way as their digital counterparts. All that is now needed is a change in the way the industry thinks about TV as a marketing tactic: it can be measured, it can be targeted, it can be optimised, and it can work in conjunction with other marketing channels.

By Blair Robertson, chief analytics officer, TVSquared