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Get your ad message right so that new TV audiences tune in

August 26, 2020 | By Virginie Dremeaux, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, International – FreeWheel @virginiedremeau

In a world turned upside down, TV – in all its current forms – serves as a vital anchor. It is a trusted provider of news and information, as well as a continual source of entertainment and comfort. It unifies families and friends through shared viewing experiences – even when they are in different locations. And it facilitates new routines, which helps people through these testing times.  

TV consumption has spiked, with a Thinkbox.tv weekly viewing report from May 2020 revealing UK viewing is up 21% year-on-year. Even as the country begins to return to a socially distanced version of normal, staying home will be the default position for many. And this will prolong consumers’ reliance on TV.

This trend is positive for advertisers. This is particularly true as 54% of consumers are paying as much or more attention to ads than they were before lockdown began, according to a recent FreeWheel survey. But to make the most of these larger audiences, advertisers need to understand the changing habits, preferences, and expectations of consumers. This will allow them to make informed decisions around messaging, tone, and delivery channel.   

Match the messaging to the moment

Ad messaging needs to relate to what is happening during current times, to be contextually relevant and to resonate with consumers.

Our survey revealed that the vast majority of UK consumers want advertising to be relevant. Three quarters of respondents feel that brands should acknowledge the present situation in their ads. Ads can be used to reinforce preventative measures such as social distancing and hand washing. They can also show customers that brands are there to help them with lockdown related challenges.   

From Nationwide to NatWest, financial services businesses are recognizing the current situation in their advertising. They are reinforcing their support for customers and outlining how they can still access services from home. Supermarkets have also brought the current context into their messaging, such as the Co-op’s campaign to support food redistribution charity FareShare.       

Set the right tone for the vertical   

Just because consumers want ads to relate to the current situation in some way, that doesn’t mean messaging needs to be sad or negative. In fact, humor should play a central role in advertising. True to form – the majority of Brits (58%) say they want to see ads that make them laugh. Many brands have taken a fun and light-hearted approach to messaging such as Maltesers with its “Look on the light side” campaign and Hotels.com with its humorous “Just stay home”’ messaging.   

Setting the right tone often depends on the vertical in which a brand operates. Despite ongoing uncertainty, a quarter of consumers want to see TV ads relating to travel. They also want emotive ads that make them dream, providing beacons of positivity in challenging times. Just because viewers can’t go to their dream destination right now doesn’t mean travel brands shouldn’t maintain awareness and advertisements.

Online search data reveals that millions of travelers are in escapism mode, discovering and dreaming of life without restrictions. So, reaching out to these consumers now can make all the difference in the medium to long-term. Sandals Resorts is one travel brand continuing to spend on TV ads. They acknowledge the reality of the current situation, but remind viewers that their holiday havens are ready and waiting.

Choose the right delivery channels

The term “TV” now encompasses a wide range of delivery channels. These include traditional linear TV, broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD), and subscription streaming services. Much media attention is currently given to the rise of video streaming. However, FreeWheel’s survey found that linear TV is still the most watched type of platform, with 34% of consumers selecting this as their first choice compared with 26% for paid streaming services and 14% for catch-up TV.

In the current climate, audiences rely on broadcast TV for important updates, with over 27 million viewers watching the Prime Minister’s “road map to recovery” announcement on Sunday 10th May 2020 and almost 13 million viewers watching the Queen’s VE day address. Primetime remains a significant moment for people to connect with others. In France, primetime audiences broke the all-time viewers record on Monday 13th April 2020: 36.7 million watched French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech, on TV and online. That represents a 94.4% market share according to Mediamétrie.

Advertisers can make use of multiple channels to reach consumers when they are fully engaged in TV content. And they can use different platforms to reach different audiences or demographics. As TV content across all channels becomes more addressable, advertisers will be able to target audience segments defined by specific criteria, regardless of the platform they are using or the content they are watching.    

Tune in

In these unprecedented times, consumers are turning to TV – in all its forms – for information, entertainment, and routine. And they want to hear from brands; only 8% say that it should be a priority for brands to stop advertising. Armed with important consumer insights, brands can make use of a boom in media consumption to reach and engage TV audiences with useful, appropriate and contextually relevant messaging. Media and brands have an important role to play, they have demonstrated that they can be agile, reinvent themselves and be creative. In future, companies that listen to viewers are more likely to better match viewers’ user journey, expectations, and needs.

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