The Viewing Report

The power of knowledge by Rhiannon Murphy

12 May 2020

© Saturday Night Takeaway / Deliveroo

Sadly, a shadow of doubt has been cast over television’s power as a medium. In our view at the7stars, this is too often because advertisers are being wrongly advised. Whether they are experienced marketers with a history of advertising successfully on TV, or have less experience as an individual marketer or smaller organisation, brands have been reading headlines that suggest they should be sceptical and apprehensive about whether television can do a great brand-building job.

While advertisers are feeling pressure to be concerned about their television investment, their intuition is that TV is aspirational for their brand, effective for their business and provides an opportunity to put their message in front of potential customers in an environment that’s entertaining, exciting and has social currency. In the AV team at the7stars, we have seen the power of television transform the businesses of many of our clients. Our recommendations are always bespoke to each client and planned with a channel-neutral view; but in TV, we are advocates for the wonderful medium we represent. It’s been getting a bad rap!

But just as the ways in which people watch television are changing, so are the ways we can plan TV activity. Planning for 87%+ coverage with three opportunities to see an ad still does have its role for some clients and campaigns, but more and more we’re finding ways beyond the classic spot campaign to deliver enormous value for clients. Our TV activity extends from our partnership for Deliveroo with Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, to being the first agency to create an integrated partnership with Love Island for Ministry of Sound.

So our television planning repertoire is expanding – from campaigns to partnerships, convention to innovation, brand to performance. All these shifts heighten the importance of understanding viewers’ relationships with programmes and how they watch those programmes through the various devices available.

As audiences start shifting to platforms where we can’t advertise, it’s vital for us as planners to understand the relationship between programme, screen and consumer. There has been much speculation around the level of viewership that has migrated onto other devices. Now that BARB is reporting multiple-screen programme average audiences, we can see that the level of viewing on non-TV devices is very small, with 99% of viewing still happening on a TV set.

That’s not to say that viewing on devices is unimportant. Now that BARB reports unduplicated programme reach across PCs and tablets and TV sets, we have more robust evidence to help us advocate for television advertising. For example, the first transmission of Love Island Winter in January 2020 delivered an additional 9% unduplicated reach from PC/tablet viewing on top of TV set viewing. This underlines the power of television and helps to reassure clients that viewing is shifting and diversifying rather than declining, and their advertising is reaching audiences in ways that were not previously measured.

Following the rollout of router meters into BARB panel homes, demographic profiles and unduplicated reach for viewing on smartphones will also be available. For clients that want to reach young adult viewers, these data will provide even more confidence.

While today we can use the multiple-screen programme average audiences and reach data in our discussions with clients about the best shows to target, the major game-changer will be the launch of the final stage of Project Dovetail: the measurement of commercials on BVOD services. Then we will finally be able to plan, measure and evaluate viewing to commercials across linear and BVOD services. This will unlock insights for all clients who use BVOD services. This is especially so for those in highly competitive categories such as Iceland which has tough competition with other supermarkets, fighting for share of viewing amongst an audience of housepersons with children that is increasingly shifting viewing from linear TV to BVOD services.

Ahead of the launch of the gold-standard solution next year, BARB is making a beta BVOD planner available. I write this before the tool is available for user testing, but we are excited about the opportunity to model reach across linear and BVOD services in our campaigns. As we get to grips with these data, they will become yet another example to clients of how we are deepening our understanding of viewers, and the value this can bring to their brands. It will be particularly helpful for entertainment clients that are very reliant on a cherry-picked approach, and have a short window of time to build reach ahead of release dates and music chart announcements. Understanding when and where audiences view genres or specific programmes will allow us to overlay linear and catch-up viewing habits to continue to drive mass reach, while also harnessing the best programme environments for each artiste.

Returning to the trend of viewing moving to platforms where our clients can’t advertise, another service improvement that we will see with the advent of BARB’s router meters is the ability to find out how much of what BARB calls unidentified viewing is accounted for by viewing to SVOD services. Q4 2019 saw an average of 55 minutes of unidentified viewing each day, more than double the amount in the first quarter of 2014. As an industry, we are acutely aware of the ever-growing, ever-competitive SVOD market, and more detail on the make-up of unidentified viewing is crucial to understanding the television ecosystem in its entirety.

But what next? The market will continue to evolve, with new entrants producing more premium, captivating content. With more information than ever on viewing behaviour, we’ll be able to develop our planning even further, with new insights that open up more TV-based opportunities for clients. Television will continue to provide a trusted, regulated environment offering an inherent quality stamp for brands.

At a time of change in viewers’ behaviour, but without yet having a single source for campaign planning and measurement, we are as an industry improvising to gather comprehensive evidence for planning television. At the7stars, we have kept the faith with television advertising and our clients have reaped the rewards. We look forward to the completion of Project Dovetail for the comprehensive data that will – we’re sure – renew confidence in client and agency minds.

The television industry may be evolving, but it’s not yet giving up its prime position!

Rhiannon Murphy, Head of AV, the7stars