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TV Squared: ‘Engagement marketers’ are changing the way TV is bought and sold

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Brands are changing the way they buy TV airtime, according to TV analytics company TVSquared, in response to changes in consumer behaviour and technologies which are making the medium more tailored, measurable and transparent.

TVSquared, which works with broadcasters and clients and claims “300+ brands over 46 countries”, uses ‘attribution’ technology to reveal the data behind which TV spots are most successful for the respective brands it works with. This can include ‘spikes’ in activity on websites, app installs or app activity, calls to call-centres, text messages, and so on.

Blair Robertson, the company’s Chief Analytics Officer, believes that in recent years, “consumers have become much more willing to engage with a programme or TV ad. “[If] somebody proposes that you might want to go on holiday, it’s not a big leap from that position to go and get your iPad, your laptop, and then check out the brand online,” he points out. “The ‘ask’ in terms of a call-to-action, is far lower now than it used to be.”

This change in consumer behaviour is paralleled by the fact that “a large amount of growth, especially in the UK, in TV advertising is coming from digital advertisers who are trying to get you to engage with the brand,” observes Robertson. These are not just direct-response (DR) advertisers, who are expecting a purchase or sale to happen immediately, says Roberston, but what he calls ‘engagement marketers.’

“Let’s take the example of a car manufacturer. The old way of selling cars used to be that you try and advertise very heavily towards the weekend, because you won’t be able to go to a dealership to buy a car, but that’s not how people buy cars anymore. They consider it for a long time, and most of the consideration happens online. So, you’re changing strategy away from the impetus of somebody seeing a TV ad and going to a retail store, in that case a forecourt, to somebody doing research online before they buy. And you’re starting off that journey.”

Such ‘engagement marketers’ have not only shifted the focus of TV Squared’s client base away from DR, but forced a change in its technology platform over the past year, says Robertson; extending it to include, not just the impact in the immediate aftermath of a TV ad being shown, but much longer-term data as well.

“We now have a hybrid approach where we’re using the spike uplift after a spot to give the initial indication as to the efficiency of the particular media set, and then we’re also using a longer-term analysis – which is quite unlike anything else on the market – which shows you the additional uplift due to the brand value of TV.” This could be that someone saw the TV ad six times over a period of time and then engaged with the brand in some way two weeks later, for instance.

Digital advertisers are also having an impact on the way TV is bought and sold, declares Robertson.

“If we go back five or ten years, you would typically buy TV upfront or in some kind of negotiated package, where you’re really only changing what you buy on TV maybe every three months, or even less, maybe every six months. Digital advertisers or people who are selling digital products come along and say, ‘Well, in the digital world, we can choose what we want to buy on a daily basis, why have I got to choose my TV three months, or six weeks at the very best, upfront? And why am I buying stuff that I don’t really want?’”

The availability of analytics technologies such as TV Squared’s is allowing such demands to be addressed, and as its use has spread, so have media agencies’ attitudes. “We are now seeing that there are many media agencies, who in order to remain competitive in an industry which is seeing reduced margins, [are] much more willing to be more flexible in terms of how they allow the advertisers to buy TV,” says Robertson. “So it might be that you’re making changes on a week-by-week basis, rather than a month-by-month. In doing so, you’re able to take advantage of very attractive media rates. You might find that a particular network is more effective at a particular time of year.”

While Robertson concedes that “TV is still quite macro compared to digital,” he notes that it still has things like “regions, day-parts, weekdays, and [different creatives], and we’re not just looking at them independently, but looking at the intersections. So we can produce a view that says, ‘We have three different TV creatives. Actually, you shouldn’t be airing them all day every day, because some of them work better at different times of the day, some of them work better on different days of the week, and some of them work better on different TV networks.’

Robertson says that in this way, “the technology we have has allowed us to move beyond that really low-hanging fruit of ‘which network works and which one doesn’t’, toward much more customized, multi-dimensional style planning.” Meanwhile, for advertisers who still want to “hit a certain GRP target” in the traditional way, he perceives a trend towards TV budgets being divided up.

“Whereas previously, you might have had a performance target which is to hit a certain number of on-target impressions at a certain cost per thousand, we’re now seeing that budgets are being segmented and they’re saying, “Well, 80% of your goal is to get a certain number of GRPs” and then another section is to achieve as many other important KPIs [as possible].”

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