9. 4. 2022
In 1990s, TV advertising had to deal with the arrival of new video formats. It is no coincidence that new ads began to appear at the same time, building primarily on the growing popularity of digital technology. Unsurprisingly, they were dominated by the internet that was increasingly popular among users. Although the position of the internet was growing dynamically the impact of TV as a medium was not decreasing. Today, we are living in a streaming era which is again significantly changing the rules. However, it would be too simplified to say that linear TV and advertising have nothing to offer. First, it is not true. Second, TV has adjusted to the rapidly changing environment. So what is the position of classic TV advertising in the changing environment?

What does TV have to offer?

A quick look at the statistics of Nielsen Admosphere shows that Czechs still spend a lot of time in front of the TV. TV is part of 92% of local households and 25% even own more than one TV set. The TV medium also reports a regular monthly reach of 95% of the TV population. It is not a generational thing. Although it is true that the monthly reach is the highest in the age groups 35+ (98%), the screen time has also grown in Generation Z and among Millenials. In these categories, the monthly reach is 80%, which is also a strong result. The average screen time shows similar outcome - on average, it is four hours per day and viewer. Even the advent of digital technology has not caused a decline in interest in the TV medium. On the contrary, the interest has been constantly growing since 2007.

In their rating measurements, Nielsen Admosphere’s experts say that TV experienced a big boom during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Czech Republic. The above-mentioned four hours per day on average in 2020 are the highest figure that has been measured in the same context over the last 25 years since the start of measurement. International comparison also indicates that it is not a Czech speciality. In Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, the average daily screen time was even higher - in Hungary nearly five hours. The high ratings have been maintained even with the return to normal life.

These are all arguments supporting TV. But how does the advent of digital services complicated the situation? The linear and online services exist side by side. That is why we provide offerings to various customers in various situations, to various conditions for use. But when you look at the use in various target groups and cohorts you will find out that the group using exclusively linear TV is the smallest. I think that in the group of 20-29 years old, about 15% of viewers say they are not watching linear TV at all,” said Susanne Aigner from Discovery, describing their strategy at the ANGA COM summit. She confirms that managements of TV stations reflect different behaviours in various age groups. And they still seek to respond by converging the linear and modern formats of video content viewing.

But where TV wins a resounding victory is in advertising. This is the finding of an extensive research entitled Track the Success organised in German-speaking countries including Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 2021. Marketing experts focused on comparing four most popular video formats - linear TV, BVOD, YouTube and Facebook. They searched which of them was the most beneficial to advertising purposes in terms of targeting, recall and profile. Linear TV was better that the other platforms in all categories monitored.

For example, TV viewers show un-aided recall of ads in more than a half of cases (55%). TV was the best also in aided recall (60%). 26% of TV viewers say that watching ads supports their purchasing plans, which is the same percentage as in BVOD. Other categories reviewed were rather subjective - but they also indicated that TV advertising was the best in attracting viewers’ attention (up to 94%) and also have the longest-lasting positive effect in terms of emotions. Out of all measurements listed, TV was the best while Facebook always ended up on the opposite end of the ranking.

According to the authors of the research, this relates to the effect of small and big screens to some extent. Simply put, advertising has a much more intensive effect on its recipients if watched on a big screen. There is a clear proportion that the more pixels, the higher effectiveness of advertising. It is demonstrated on linear TV and partly on BVOD that are both connected to watching content on big screens. We tend to watch Facebook and, to a lesser degree, YouTube on mobile phones or tablets. Advertisements have not sufficient space and their effectiveness falls. In Facebook, scrolling and the automatic start of muted video content is another important factor resulting in viewers often missing the ads and scrolling further without even noticing them.

A sign of exclusivity

Of course, there are experts saying that TV as such is a dying format. And they predict the same dark future for TV advertising - the most radical ones say that it will disappear from our lives completely some day. But these opinions usually disregard more nuanced issues of human psyche and the impression that TV presentation makes. One of the factors is the price that ranges between 2 and 50 thousand dollars on average. When translated into Czech crowns it means that for the more expensive placements you pay more than a million Czech crowns, which is a huge amount that not any company can afford to pay. And viewers are aware of that.

It has still been a matter of prestige. What comes to our mind at first in this respect are Super Bowl ads for which companies are still willing to spend enormous budgets. However, that is another reason that you know most of the advertised brands when watching an advertising break on TV. But you cannot say the same about any video ad that you come across when you are browsing the internet or social networks. The benefits of TV advertising also include its solid reach of potential consumers. For example in the US, the numbers of viewers are growing year by year, maybe not in the pace the TV companies would wish but the trend has been positive. Brands are using this fact to improve their visibility options. The increased frequency of broadcasting of a particular ad supports this fact.

The ways we receive advertisements on TV and in the digital environment also differ. While we tend to check social networks continuously during a day, mostly in parallel with other activities, it is different when watching TV. The established idea that for TV we set aside a special time when we do not have much else to do still applies. Our patience is not too distracted, which drives better perception of what we are watching. In addition, we always see a single ad message at a time while on the internet we are overwhelmed by advertising and have to make an additional effort to select what is interesting for us. Many ad messages just whizz past users without being relevant to them.

We would find more advantages of TV advertising. But let us mention one more important factor that is somewhat missing is the wild digital environment. On TV, the author still remains the undisputable owner of the ad format. As we predominantly consume the content that a broadcaster has prepared for us when watching TV, there is not much space left for immediate feedback. The ad is running on the screen, we are watching it and perceiving it or leaving during the ad break. There are not many other options.

In the online environment, the situation is completely different as practically any platform provides space for feedback today. Most often we can see that in sections for user comments that may frequently be full of hates or similar inappropriate messages. It is also a space on which competitors can quickly capitalise. When a brand selects a TV broadcaster through whose broadcasting it wishes to advertise it mostly gets control over how its profile will look. On social networks it is not able to influence what kind of posts appear alongside. It may easily become the target of mockery or criticism.

Revolution conducted by HULU

The established status quo was broken down in 2007. The imaginary culprit was Hulu. For some time, there were rumours that this joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corporation was preparing something big and ground-breaking for its users. The initial estimates that it would be a user video sharing service similar to YouTube had quickly disappeared. Instead, a tale occurred that the platform would be focused on video but its principle activities would include online distribution of its own premium content.

We have to say that Netflix (that later dominated the global market of streaming services) was in its infancy at that time and its library had only about a thousand titles. And it lacked its original production. The eyes of all nosey parkers waiting for a revolution in TV production as such turned to Hulu. It offered a promise of original content produced by two largest US TV networks  - Fox and NBC - plus a number of minor cable services.

Although we could talk about many aspects that Hulu presented as the first one, we will focus on its unique approach it applied to ad messages. When working on the project, authors promised that advertising on Hulu would be less disturbing than viewers got used to on TV. In short video formats, there were banners on the sides of the player or pop-up windows at the bottom of the screen. In case of longer video formats, ad spots were included in videos but with a much lower frequency and length than in TV broadcasting. The advertising time was meant to take about 25% of the advertising content time - which is about two minutes of the net time per 30 minutes of content while on TV it was eight minutes.

All this gave viewers more control over the screen time but Hulu management wanted to go even further. For this reason, it introduced its “No Commercials Plans” in the same year. In short, it included tailored user packages where subscribers could select how many advertising messages they wanted to receive when watching. The proportion was clear - the fewer ads, the more expensive a package. A large portion of advertisements were produced by Hulu, which means that often they were trailers or sneak peeks of new popular shows in which users were interested. The scales were tipped even further in favour of users.

Power of quality stories

It may seem that today, classic adverts lose their importance and viewer attractiveness. The opposite is true - they only require a different approach. That is why it is even more important for their authors to come up with original, entertaining and unconventional messages. Ironically, in this they should learn as much as possible from the content that the advertising business was producing in the seemingly distant 1980s.

That was the golden era of storytelling in TV advertising. Adverts were no longer just slogans accompanied by ad jingles, it was a really creative discipline to which famous directors such as David Lynch or Ridley Scott had no aversion. In 1984, the latter created an ad spot for Apple which was entitled based on the year when it was launched and which was also an allusion to the famous dystopian novel by George Orwell. The heroine of the ad is fighting against a totalitarian regime the main goal of which is to unify the thinking of the entire society. The heroine resists brainwashing and with a hammer, she breaks down the TV that is broadcasting the message. At that moment, the legendary slogan “Think Different”, which Apple has been using to date, appeared on the screen for the first time.

The advert itself is no less legendary. By its message, it excellently resists the ravages of time, and spot creators should get inspired by it even today. The reason why viewers search for streaming services is that they want to get their regular dose of quality stories. Nobody said that the stories should have the footage of a feature film. An advert can have the same effect, serving to a brand and promoting it much better than many other formats we regularly come across on the internet.

In 1990s, the advertising production was in the doldrums, using predominantly time-proven and formerly applied formats. The streaming era was literally round the corner and with its advent, advertising had to change. But maybe it is time to realise that consumers are far more likely to appreciate a campaign that has an original idea and depth than a mere product of marketing quantity.
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