The Changing Landscape of Direct Response TV Advertising

TV influences behaviour; whether it’s eliciting feverish conversation over yours and your friend’s favourite show, impelling us to haphazardly attempt a new baking recipe, or moulding opinion around a brand and its products.

It is this influence that attracted a full house to Thinkbox’s ‘TV Response: New Rules, New Roles’ event recently, with eyes and ears fixed steadfastly on insights around the shifting of a landscape that, driven largely by technological advances, is resetting the terms of brand and direct response. With 69% of all web visits now being generated by Paid media, and 47% of that figure attributable to TV advertising activity alone, understanding the changing role that television plays in driving brand engagement is crucial.

Prioritising Reach Over Frequency

The first, and perhaps biggest, revelation of the day came from research conducted on behalf of Thinkbox by GroupM. The study found that approximately 90% of all response derived from TV activity was accrued in the first one or two views of a TV commercial; demonstrating how a focus on the frequency of spots in TV advertising strategies may in fact be detrimental to campaign effectiveness.

Instead, the research suggests that a precedence on reach over frequency is more beneficial for advertisers; a point that, whilst converging with the balanced methodology implemented by Guerillascope and our aptitude for plans dictated by tighter budgets, flies in the face of the conventional approach taken by many agencies in planning campaigns geared for delivering direct response.

The Day-to-Day Mechanics of TV Response

A key element in the research was the differentiation between ‘want’ and ‘need’ brands. For example, businesses within the financial and governmental sectors glean more success by upweighting a greater amount of their TV advertising activity to weekends, asserts George Gloyn, Associate Director of Business Science at MediaCom.

This is chiefly due to our penchant for leaving such important yet generally onerous considerations to a Saturday or Sunday, when we have more time to focus our attention on matters that, whilst being of added significance to our personal and financial lives, are regarded as chores.

Conversely, businesses that relate more with our wants enjoy a greater response from Monday to Friday. This can be explained by our desire for gratification and escape during the hustle and bustle of the working week, with retail, travel, and entertainment brands garnering particular success when apportioning the majority of airtime to the five-day grind.

Ultimately, though established wisdom dictates that weekdays are the most effective avenue for achieving immediate response from TV activity, the new research shows that, depending on the brand and sector, weekends can be just as powerful. DRTV works seven days a week.

Timing is Everything

Yet it isn’t just the day of the week that influences our response to TV spots, with the time of day equally as significant. The breakfast (06:00-08:29), coffee (08:30-11:29) and daytime (12:00-15:59) day-parts still deliver the greatest uplift in response – despite providing the lowest number of TV viewers – whilst pre-peak (16:00-17:29), late-peak (20:00-22:59) and post-peak (23:00-00:29) generate comparatively lower response rates.

A curveball comes flying into the mix with the resurgence in response uplifts during early-peak (17:30-19:59), which, of all the day-parts, also grants advertisers access to the second largest availability of viewers. This is an example of how our viewing behaviours have changed over the last five years; having arrived home and earmarked the TV set as their primary stress-reliever, viewers – with their smartphone, tablet or laptop now a ubiquitous receiver to the wider world – are displaying an appetite for dual-screening, particularly later in the day, when the main want is to relax, unwind and engage with content that not only enhances mood, but is also just a click away.

What this demonstrates to agencies and advertisers is that later day-parts can drive direct response – though this is subject to the brand providing the viewer with what they want, not need – with companies rooted in the travel, luxury goods, cosmetics and automobile sectors standing to profit from this new approach. Should budget permit, the opportunity to reach larger audiences of active ‘media-meshers’ is one we should harness, with direct response very much achievable even during peak.

Content is Key

As we already know, the largest viewing audiences generally manifest during the peak day-parts. We also know that the effectiveness of direct response is dampened to an extent by more immersive programming, though this is not set in stone, with content genre an important factor in the level of immediate response generated.

Entertainment and drama – the two great bastions of prime time viewing – predictably deliver lower response rates. Conversely however, current affairs, weather, news and sports programming – all of which attract peak audiences depending on their position in the TV schedule – perform more effectively as generators of direct response, with cinema films and content related to hobbies/leisure also gleaning relatively strong results.

Children's content remains the most potent driver of immediate response, though its status as a source of shared viewing between parent and child makes such programming more relevant to a daytime-focussed strategy.

Positioning Your Brand in the Right Place

The position an advertiser holds in the commercial break is also important, found MediaCom’s research. The start of an ad break –commonly regarded as one of the premium slots available to brands – is not as effective from a direct response perspective as first thought, with the centre and, in particular, end breaks delivering greater engagement. 

The logic underpinning this point is that the first spot is when we get up to go and make a cup of tea or settle the kids down. We don’t like to be up and mobile for long however, and generally gravitate back towards the screen in time for advertisers taking up later positions in the ad break to engage us with their products and offers.

To Conclude

Though the world of TV advertising is acutely aware of the role its growing connectivity with online platforms plays in direct, immediate response, the true power of this union remains undervalued. We live in a time of media omnipresence; one where the old boundaries distinguishing the two channels as distinct from one another have blurred. TV is the new point-of-sale medium, with its age-old influence on purchasing decisions now in confluence with a transaction journey that hasn’t been shortened, but eradicated altogether.

With the average adult TV viewer now spending 38 minutes browsing the internet whilst watching TV every day, the onus is on agencies and advertisers to recognise the exciting propositions this changing media landscape now provides. Gone are the restricted windows of opportunity we thought existed; TV is the beating heart of a campaign, nourishing a brand’s image across other medias with greater propulsion,  synergy and immediacy than ever before.