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The new art of TV planning

The new art of TV planning
Opinion

Putting a TV ad on a different screen isn’t enough. Every channel across the ecosystem has to have a clear role, strategy and part to play.

 

TV, in all its glorious forms, is growing and evolving. And it’s doing so, in part, because so many of us have spent the last two years of a pandemic practically living through screens.

Lockdown certainly boosted our viewing habits – and now, with inflation biting, the video market might be experiencing a degree of subscription cancellation, but OMG Futures data suggests time spent viewing on video on demand (VOD) is still set to triple.

And it’s not just VOD; we’re seeing growth across the full spectrum of the AV landscape, where viewing is increasingly fragmented. If brands aren’t careful, they will miss out on hours of consumer attention.

Indeed, YouTube now ranks fourth for driving weekly reach for all adults and second for 16 – 34s, showing just how diverse video diets are across screens, platforms and audiences.

However, there’s a difference between attention during a 30-second primetime TV ad versus a skippable smartphone ad on YouTube – which means driving broad reach and effective frequency is becoming increasingly challenging.

Achieving cost-effective reach

We’re also entering a time of constrained advertising opportunity within high quality, professionally produced content. Linear TV impacts are falling and the area of growth is coming from a very different kind of AV advertising.

Consequently, TV inflation has returned, and is expected to rise. However, by utilising digital-first strategies, total AV reach is relatively resilient as much of the shortfall in linear impacts has been shored up via the full range of AV channels.

Additionally, by combining online video with TV – as shown by Les Binet and Peter Field – makes it work even harder. Just doing so isn’t always simple, which means the art of AV planning is going to be absolutely vital.

To that end, and by drawing on recent experience, I’ve identified four areas I believe brands should focus their efforts to develop an AV strategy fit for this new era.

From TV siloes to an AV ecosystem

The way we watch TV has changed – a point I made in a previous column – and in my own household, my kids use it to watch Mr Beast YouTube videos before switching to Camp Cretacious on Netflix, and then Britain’s Got Talent with the whole family on ITV. In between, we might all be watching other shows on tablets and phones.

However, it isn’t a case of just putting a TV ad on a different screen; every channel across the ecosystem has to have a clear role, strategy and part to play.

Brands need to be mindful of how viewers experience each environment, the merits of each screen and that communications are fit for purpose too, accounting for attention, format, length, context and content to identify the right blend.

Every agency will take a unique approach here, but at Hearts we chose to create a tool which optimises hundreds of thousands of scenarios to arrive at the optimum investment by AV channel.

It utilises a bespoke algorithm combined with CPTs, media metrics such as viewability, attention and engagement, plus audience consumption patterns to predict total combined reach and frequency across AV screens. For us, this was the only viable solution, but I’d be curious to see how others have approached the challenge.

From standard audiences to custom audiences

Brands will need to rethink and evolve their audience approaches too. It’s redundant to think primarily in standard buying currencies, and we need to be inclusive-by-design with a custom audience-first approach and ensure plans reflect diverse and complex audiences and their respective media behaviours.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of audience data available across the AV ecosystem, such as Samsung connected TVs enabling an understanding of TV device data, app usage, gaming device and games level usage or linear ad exposure. And owing to the size of ITV Hub (over 30 million) and All4 (over 20 million), first-party data matching is also a way of utilising existing customer data to profile and build activation strategies.

Last year, for example, Hearts & Science worked with Not On The High Street to use both ITV Hub and All4 to create a mixture of successfully matched customers and modelled lookalikes to guide AV planning, as well as confirming or dispelling certain assumptions in regard to the audience and what programmes they actually watched.

From traditional tools to convention challenging technology

The pace of innovation across the AV landscape means brands need to make use of industry leading solutions – whether CFlight or using AI to identify contextual moments in TV programming. Standing still is simply not an option.

But it’s also imperative that conventions are challenged too. For example, advertisers are already able to augment TV viewing data with sales data, but this is reliant on third parties and leaves advertisers hamstrung by off-the-shelf solutions.

With our client Yakult, we partnered with Dunnhumby to access Tesco Club Card data – but the critical difference was that we gained direct access to 3 billion data points from the Sky set-top-box API, enabling us to identify and understand – down to the postcode level – where households had viewed a linear TV spot and gone on to purchase Yakult at above average rates.

This level of granularity meant that although our TV was national, every postcode and local Tesco became a test cell, meaning we could isolate the incremental sales driven by each TV spot. It enabled us to deliver an outcomes-driven way of planning, buying and measuring AV.

From 30-second TV ads to new types of creativity and collaboration

There is plenty of evidence showing creatively awarded campaigns deliver higher levels of effectiveness, so in a world of fragmenting AV consumption and attention brands need to create an unfair advantage by using both science and creativity.

An example here is recent work for our client GoCompare. In the price comparison category the convention and consensus is that TV advertising rules are ‘the more you spend the more you win.’

However, we were able to increase GoCompare’s lead in advertising awareness by reducing spend on linear TV, and instead integrating the brand’s assets into the cultural fabric of British TV entertainment.

We did this by working with ITV and Thames TV, licensing the IP of the programme to create Our Survey Says, the UK’s first audience participation game show, featuring GoCompare’s opera singing mascot, Gio Compario, competing against the actor who plays him.

Like much about this new AV world, we just needed to operate with a different mindset. This can mean taking what’s familiar and proven and evolving it to take advantage of the new creative possibilities.

***

Lindsey Clay, the CEO of Thinkbox, once said that “TV isn’t dead; it’s just having babies.”

It’s a good quote; the newest members of the family certainly share enough of television’s DNA, but they are also different enough that their arrival makes things more complex. We just need to ensure the way in which we approach this growing family is suitably different too.

Simon Carr is chief strategy officer at Omnicom media agency Hearts & Science in the UK

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