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One year on from lockdown: Why TV is the best investment in 2021

Apr 01, 2021

Harry Harcus, UK MD, Finecast

It’s now one year since the UK first went into lockdown, which has triggered major disruptions across the advertising industry and consumer behaviour. Some elements of the advertising industry have been particularly affected – such as OOH – because of varying levels of enforced stay at home rules.

Even TV advertising has been affected. Despite the considerable increase in time many have spent watching what they define as TV, that doesn’t necessarily trickle into TV advertising. According to Ofcom, in April 2020, we spent an average of six hours 29 minutes watching audio-visual content, up by 90 minutes in the same period 2019. However, the reduction in productions being televised, combined with a decrease in investment, led to some challenges, from which the industry is now thankfully bouncing back. Now, with ad spend expected to come back to the market rapidly, brands will need to seriously consider their spend and act quickly in order to gain market presence again. It’s also a huge opportunity for those brands who’ve never advertised on TV to grow their relationships with their customers. As Brian Wieser, GroupM’s global president of business intelligence, recently said in a report:

We suspect that many marketers are behaving defensively and waiting to see what others do before reacting. We would advise against this.

That report also predicts that TV ad spend – including digital extensions – will rise 11% this year from 2020 to £4.33bn. With so much growth expected and encouraged, brands need to consider what is going to be the most effective way of engaging with consumers on TV.

As part of our ongoing research programme with DRG, Thinking Inside the Box, we sought to answer this question. It highlighted that one in three consumers would be more likely to view TV ads if they were relevant to them. However, 52% said they find personalised ads intrusive – it’s clear there is a need for a middle ground, where addressable TV advertising can play a pivotal role in the future.

Unlike a connected or programmatic video environment, taking an addressable approach enables advertisers to be nuanced in how they build relationships with consumers against key metrics and demographic locations while maintaining a high level of production value that matches the TV environment. It’s this addressability that our research showed consumers find particularly appealing. Coupled with creativity – something 57% said makes a great TV ad – developing a strategy that marries the best of TV advertising with relevance to the viewer can be incredibly powerful.

In partnership with professors of cognitive neuroscience from UCL’s Department of Experimental Psychology, we wanted to understand viewers’ behavioural and physiological reactions to addressable. The results were clear – people liked addressable ads almost four times more than non-addressable ads, and they also remembered them more accurately.

The research also looked at implicit measures to evaluate the efficacy of addressable, notably changes in heart rate. Measured using a biometric device, the findings showed that viewers’ heart rates dropped further when watching addressable ads than those which weren’t relevant to them. This signifies that the participants were exhibiting greater external focus – much like we would a ‘heart-stopping moment’ – indicating they were more focused on ad content relevant to them.

While 2020 was a year like no other, 2021 looks set to see a strong rebound as the economy opens back up. Brands will need to react quickly and work on building relationships with consumers as part of their sales strategy. As the most powerful medium to engender heart-stopping moments, TV is well placed to support that growth, but it needs to be done correctly. Consumers still expect creative, high-quality ads on TV and, while there is a growing wish for them to be relevant, personalisation will be a step too far. It’s only through addressable advertising that marries TV and data that brands – including those who are new to advertising on TV – will be able to open up incredible new growth opportunities.

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