Is TV Advertising Still Worthwhile?

By: Susan Kelly

Have you wondered whether TV advertising is still worthwhile in this world where households have so many options and so many distractions?  As a consumer, I love my DVR, but as a researcher, it is another complication in an already fragmented and complex marketing environment.  The key complication is it allows consumers to fast-forward through the commercials that advertisers are counting on them viewing.  As DVRs continue to hold a key place in our TV viewing habits, this continues to be a concern for marketers. And while TV has morphed in other ways, with so many “on demand” options on every platform from gaming systems to cell phones, most consumers still watch the majority of their television viewing in the traditional format.

So should marketers give up on TV entirely?  The answer is no.

No other medium has proven to have the power that TV does to help build and sustain a brand.  While social media unquestionably has an immediate impact, the long-term impact has yet to be proven. The impact of TV advertising can be felt almost immediately, and has been proven to be a long-term brand builder that expands well beyond the actual airing.  And, yes, DVRs certainly complicate the matter, but providers are currently experimenting with alternative advertising options during fast-forwarding, and even before those are available there are many things that advertisers can do to make sure their ads are still breaking through and having an impact.

First and last pods in the commercial break have always been the most sought-after since consumers are more likely to see those even if they leave the room during commercial breaks, and now those are even more critical. Additionally, consumer recognition can be improved through prominent brand images, and a study by Boston College1 indicates that even the location of the branding on the screen can impact brand recognition, especially in fast forward.  Amongst other key factors, the study showed that brand logos that are prominently in the center of the television are more memorable than logos at the edges of the screen.

That said, coordinated messaging for the brand across multiple mediums is also critical. This includes leveraging online social media to let viewers interact and express their thoughts about TV content, as well as coordinating with paid search keywords.   Some common methods of tying TV to social media include adding Twitter hashtags to broadcasts, streaming tweets from celebrities or Facebook integration of shows.  These may also include product placements or mobile advertising that is tied to the TV ads.  A commercial that has already been seen on another medium is more likely to spark recognition, even in fast forward.  And while many advertisers use some of these tactics, they need to be used more often and more consistently to get the most of out of their advertising dollars.

It is also critical to become better at targeting.  Traditional targeting methodology based on general demographics simply doesn’t serve today’s many-channel TV environment. And it is increasingly difficult to ensure that you’re reaching the right consumers, the ones that might care about your product and have a need or desire to buy it.  So while on one hand, technology challenges the TV advertising model, on the other hand, it provides a solution. It is now possible to know what mediums and even what specific programs appeal to an advertiser’s core constituents. A recent article in “Ad Age”2 detailed IRI’s recent announcement of its expanded partnerships with both Rentrak and comScore to create solutions that will give advertisers the ability to identify specific consumers that have both the propensity to buy their product and the propensity to interact with their media, giving them the ability to create marketing plans specific to those most valuable consumers.  With so many options and limited funding, narrowing down the right places to spend the budget will make laser-focused targeting a necessity rather than an option.

Advertisers definitely should not count TV out.  Today’s challenges to TV advertising are formidable, but not insurmountable, as long as advertisers are willing to evolve, innovate and invest where it matters.


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