TV Advertising: Beyond the Here and Now

We live in a society that places considerable importance on the here and now. Short on long-term focus whilst longing for short-term, instant results, our success as individuals and businesses is defined by a small window wherein tangible effects can be connected to specific causes.

In the TV market as in life, the relatively distant (in other words, anything over a year) future has been viewed as a murky landscape devoid of the clarity required to make sense of an uncertain world. We baulk in the face of long-term ambiguity and shirk away from actions that cannot guarantee measurable outcomes. After all, why expend energy on something that you have no control over?

Well, there’s one small problem. Whilst TV advertising’s effectiveness as a driver of direct, immediate response remains uncontested, the reality is that, with over 50% of profits delivered through TV materialising after the first year of activity, a change in the way we as an industry frame ‘effectiveness’ needs to take place. Ultimately, TV advertising’s influence on long-term business growth is substantial – a point that Thinkbox sought to crystallize with new research at its recent event, ‘TV Response: New Rules, New Roles’.

What We Now Know

The study, conducted by GroupM on behalf of Thinkbox, has gone a long way in quantifying the long-term effects of TV, exploding what was previously a narrow thread of data focused on the short-term into a sprawling web of connections, causes and effects. Through econometric analysis we now know that TV advertising is 40% more efficient per pound in driving long-term response than the next closest media channels; print and outdoor. Compared to online display advertising, TV is 180% more efficient.

We also now know that TV’s unbeatable reach and scale mean that budgets can stretch to a level 2.7 times higher than online platforms before its efficiency as a generator of sales begins to wane; with saturation the leading cause of downturns.

Additionally, we now know that TV advertising directly drives 25% of all media-driven sales supplied through phone calls, 29% of sales delivered through web traffic (including organic search) and 45% of bricks & mortar sales – that increasingly rare act of going in-store to purchase a product.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, we now know all about the previously concealed, indirect influence TV advertising has on our purchasing decisions. GroupM found that 33% of all media-driven sales attributed to online search can be sourced back to TV advertising, with 26% of online display-driven sales and 20% of sales delivered through affiliate marketing also attributable to TV as the start of the purchase journey. Additionally, 44% of all media-driven brand interactions on Facebook derive from TV activity, with social media becoming an increasingly vital aspect of a consumer’s long-term flirtation with brands.

The Enduring Influence of TV Advertising

In order to fully gauge the long-term impact of a TV advertising campaign, it’s important to recognise the fact that pre-existing metrics for short-term, direct response strategies cannot act as an accurate guide to long-term performance. We need to look at each side of the coin from different perspectives, implementing a wider purview that acknowledges TV’s role as the oft unseen, root source of brand interaction across other media channels. 

Over 60% of UK adults now claim to browse the internet on another device whilst watching TV, with the small screen’s status as an instigator of brand engagement across the entire media landscape stronger than ever. TV advertising remains the most robust platform for businesses to communicate branding messages; it bestows greater creativity, wider coverage and deeper emotional connections with the viewer. If a brand can lodge itself within the memory of a potential customer, then it stands to benefit when that viewer comes round to making a purchasing decision, whenever that may be.

‘Advertising Effectiveness: The Long and Short of It’, a study conducted by the IPA, found that in the long-term (3+ years), brands that run a TV advertising campaign as part of their marketing strategy experience on average a 140% uplift in company profits, suggesting that patience, time and investment are all required to fully experience the true power of TV advertising.

Whilst the here and now will – and should – always matter, it’s time that TV advertising’s less visible attributes were celebrated. With the IPA’s research demonstrating how a long-term TV advertising strategy spanning a longer duration than three-years delivers double the profit of a short-term approach of less than one-year, it’s important that agencies and advertisers are aware of the medium’s far-reaching strengths.