TV virgins: advice for challenger brands looking to scale

TV virgins: advice for challenger brands looking to scale

Strategy Leaders

It may be difficult for digital-native marketers, but their measurement framework needs to be built around more than driving an immediate uplift on sales.

Despite regular reports of the terminal decline of TV, the medium is actually in rude health, with ITV forecasting 2021 to be its biggest advertising revenue year ever, while media buyers reported strong demand in the run-up to Christmas.

Scale ups, digital companies and challenger brands have been turning to TV, with Oatly, TikTok and Genie Drinks all recent converts to the medium. Tapping into the reach, power and glamour of TV is a way to build the fame and popularity of brands that have often started off life promoted through digital channels from influencers and social media advertising to online display.

Having worked across challenger as well as mainstream brands, I’ve found that challenger brand marketers whose bread and butter is digital advertising can struggle with the ground rules for mainstream TV ad campaigns and often end up under-investing, under-utilising, and under-valuing the power of TV.

Comparing apples with apples

Firstly, in terms of under-investing, digital marketers often hold the view that TV advertising is expensive. Sure, a single spot in Bake Off or a football match on Sky might set you back upwards of £60,000, and the cost per thousand (CPM) could be around £70, but scale up marketers need to make sure they are comparing apples with apples.

On price alone, the quirks of TV trading mean that £70 CPM only counts the ‘buying audience’ such as 16-34 adults; so once you have counted all the other exposures to your ad (that is, all adults watching that program) then your CPM effectively drops to around £17.50 CPM, or 1.75p a view – which compares very favourably to a 30-second view on YouTube which is often around 2p or 3p a view.

We also need to consider the media experience. Not all impressions are equal, and a 30-second ad in high definition on a 50-inch TV screen does not compare with Facebook’s definition of a view, which is three seconds of content viewed with at least 50% of the ad in view (and with the sound most likely off).

Making media investment perform better

Secondly, marketers that are new to TV often struggle with producing effective creative and under-utilise the medium. Used to creating literal or product focussed ads full of features and benefits, many marketers ignore, or are unaware of, the body of evidence which shows that ads that generate an emotional response outperform those full of rational messages.

Ads that make you laugh, that are enjoyable, that tell a great story, leave a better imprint on memory and brand impression. Leave the rational messages for closer to the point of purchase, whether that be on pack, in store, or on the website. In TV environments, the job is to get your brand noticed, and create favourable impressions at scale.

The creative process needs craft and subtlety to achieve engagement in this medium, and production quality needs to match the environment your advertising surrounds.

A rough, UGC-style ad might be suitable for social media, where native style ads often outperform traditional approaches, but in the TV environment the script, production quality, and use of distinctive assets and brand mnemonics will all make your media investment perform better.

Lastly, in terms of under-valuing TV, challenger brand marketers and scale up marketers need to be clear on the role of a TV or broadcast advertising campaign – and put in place an appropriate measurement framework to assess performance correctly.

Many disruptive start-ups and scale-up businesses grow rapidly at first with little or no ‘brand’ advertising. This is often because when they launch, they are unique and have few competitors. Being small, they don’t need a high frequency of sale to support their business.

But, when rivals eventually start copying their idea or business model and replicating the offer, the business cannot rely on the uniqueness of its product or service to continue to drive sales. That is when they will need strong brand equity to convey why consumers should choose them rather than the competition – and that is one of the triggers for switching to TV which has a greater power to build brand equity at scale – due to the richness of the medium itself.

Measuring for sales and effectiveness

The measurement framework then needs to be built around more than driving an immediate uplift on sales. TV can and does work very effectively at driving a short-term boost – industry trade body Thinkbox has a great case study outlining how mobile bank Monzo’s search volumes went through the roof as soon as the brand started advertising on TV.

TV’s real power comes in its longevity of effect: by reaching audiences that may not even be in market yet, you are building future demand for your brand: 58% of TV’s power is felt in the long term (defined as greater than two years).

Therefore marketers need to enact measurement approaches that balance the uplift on short-term sales performance as well as the effectiveness of building future demand. There is still a place for ‘traditional’ brand tracking, measuring awareness, familiarity, preference, brand impression and the like.

Over time, models can quantify the relationship between these brand metrics and sales performance to provide the business with the robust analysis that is required to invest in media – and creative development – with confidence.

Mike Harper is business strategy and development director at The Beyond Collective

Strategy Leaders: Mediatel News’ weekly bulletin with thought leadership, news and analysis dedicated to new ideas, challenges, and excellence in commercial media strategy.
Sign up for free to ensure you stay up to date.


(Main image: TV presenters Ant & Dec feature in TikTok’s 2021 ad “Entertainment. Now on TikTok.”)


Media Jobs