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From Zero to Hero: The Value of Free TV Spots

The word ‘zero’ often carries negative connotations. The absence of quantity; the lowest point or degree; complete nothingness. It’s a word that we believe gets a raw deal – especially when considering the value of the zero-rated TV spot to advertisers.

Allow us to explain. TV viewing figures in the UK are measured by the Broadcast Audience Research Bureau (BARB). To facilitate this, BARB works with third party research bodies such as Ipsos Mori to operate and maintain a ‘viewing panel’ of 5,100 homes, each of which represents another 5,000 of the UK’s 26 million households.

This measurement system has remained largely unchanged since the days of terrestrial television, yet with the explosion in channel choice driven by the digital revolution, advertisers now have access to over 600 commercial outlets. These smaller, often niche-interest channels typically attract much smaller audiences than the likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Further to this, the limited size of BARB’s viewing panel means that TV spots aired to audiences of less than 10,000 are typically defined as zero-rated – or in other words, completely devoid of viewers.

Since the costs of advertising on TV are fundamentally determined by ratings – or the percentage of an audience group tuning in at a given time – zero-rated TV spots are non-chargeable, thus completely free to the advertiser. Here’s where things get interesting, however.

Our status as an official processor of BARB viewing data enables the team here at Guerillascope to ascertain the precise audience figures for specific TV advertising spots; when BARB defines a spot as zero-rated, we can demonstrate that, in fact, audiences of up to 10,000 viewers are tuning in. So, whilst the advertiser is not spending a single penny on that TV spot, it is nevertheless reaching thousands of potential customers who, thanks to our targeted approach to planning, are more likely to engage with the advertisement because of increased ad relevancy.

Guerillascope calculates that over 60% of TV advertising inventory in the UK is measured by BARB as zero-rated, and thus free. So, advertisers are still generating response from this activity, without paying a dime. However, it’s important to achieve both reach and frequency; whilst having access to a large volume of free and responsive advertising space represents fantastic value for businesses, TV spots on larger channels with wider reach have a crucial role to play in driving awareness. In order for businesses to develop the brand profiles central to generating sales, cultivating consumer trust and increasing market share, it really is a case of striking the right balance.

To learn more about the costs of advertising on TV, and the value-for-money it affords businesses, why not get in touch with our team?