Should longer advanced-booking deadlines ever come back to TV?

Should longer advanced-booking deadlines ever come back to TV?

Advanced booking deadlines for advertisers were reduced from eight weeks to four weeks last year by the UK’s three major TV sales houses in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This led to a competitive festive period with shorter-term media planning and buying and a surge in new digital advertisers. Research by Thinkbox, based on BARB linear data, showed that 341 brands that advertised on TV were either new to the medium, or returned after five years’ away, between April and September 2020.

AB deadlines were thought to provide stability for ITV, Sky Media and Channel 4, as they need time to schedule advertisers’ spots to ensure they get the optimal audience that they have paid for.

As we hope for a day soon when the pandemic will be declared over, should these deadlines come back? Mediatel News asked for views from consultants, brand media leaders and agency buyers.

Gill Hind
Chief operating officer of Enders Analysis

“Advanced booking deadlines may seem anachronistic given the flexibility when planning and booking digital campaigns. But the comparison is unfair: digital players offer fixed audiences with no set time or day requirements, nor for specific programmes, nor quality metrics, such as position-in-break.

“As TV deals are struck against so many parameters, sales houses need sufficient time to schedule and traffic all campaigns to best optimise the airtime for everyone.

“Reducing the deadline to four weeks last year was welcomed, and shouldn’t be reversed, but shortening it further will require significant tech investment and may be problematic.”

Rachel Forde

“Advanced-booking deadlines never really went away, although they were cut back from eight weeks to four as of Q2 last year.

“This relaxation worked well for advertisers and broadcasters alike: it gave the former greater flexibility to make decisions based on more up-to-date performance data, and from a broadcaster’s perspective this has diverted spend back from online. On the downside, it’s become harder for planners to predict TV pricing in advance.

“Overall, the benefits of a shorter window outweigh the negatives. Hopefully the current situation will become the standard and will help linear TV compete better against online channels.”

Nick Ashley
Head of media and planning at Tesco

“While we always look to commit budgets as early as possible, the additional flexibility that the broadcasters have offered over the last year has been very welcome. To some degree I think this has been a requirement with increasingly adaptable opportunities offered by digital media. It has also in no small part contributed to an impressive return to revenue growth, particularly over the last few months.

“I do not think that the old-style two-month AB deadlines will return, but it will be interesting to see whether some of the suggestions mooted in the recent Enders report, TV Advertising: Evolving the Model, will be implemented. I could see a situation where advertisers are encouraged to book premium airtime early (and are incentivised to do so), whilst a proportion of inventory is traded in a more programmatic real-time manner.”

Sophie Miller
AV group account director at Starcom 

“No, the removal of AB deadlines has given the TV market a much-needed boost. It has introduced more flexibility allowing TV to compete with other media for late money when clients may have previously been put off by charges.

“This has led to strong market recovery in the wake of the first lockdown, a side effect of which has been market volatility making it very difficult to predict the market.

“Unfortunately, this has led to clients missing planned weights which has been a concern across the industry. Reinstating AB deadlines would be a step backwards for the industry, but we would all have to work with the volatility this may cause.”

Michelle Sarpong
Trading director at the7stars

“The answer is no. I think during the last 18 months we learned that flexibility was pivotal in sustaining the ad market. The suspension of the usual AB deadlines has allowed new brands to enter the broadcast space along with increased short-term investment in the month for the month.”

“Yes, there will be challenges that the broadcasters will face but a surge of investment into the channel is a nice problem to have. Five years ago, there was talk of broadcast TV being dead but now we are talking about broadcast TV seeing some of the biggest investment ever.”

The Future of Media conference, which takes place in London on 27 and 28 October, explores eight key themes as part of a unique and business-critical agenda for the advertising and media industry.

For more information on what’s in store for media buying, as well as the other key themes of the conference, check out the event website here.

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