Hew Bruce-Gardyne
Hew Bruce-Gardyne 6 November 2018

Why Startups Shouldn't Discount TV Advertising

Super Bowl ads famously average $5 million for a 30-second spot, so for start-up businesses TV can be a daunting ballpark to enter. But you don’t need to play with Super Bowl-sized budgets to have a good game.

In the early stages most new companies tend to focus their marketing efforts on digital, which typically has a lower cost of entry. But with UK adults watching almost three and a half hours of broadcast television per day, TV is an engaging and trusted channel – and a key component of any successful advertising strategy no matter the business size. In a world where second screening is the norm, TV has the power to push customers towards digital activity, meaning there doesn’t need to be an either-or choice between TV and digital; the two form the perfect partnership.     

Unfortunately, there is little advice for new businesses on the most effective way to utilise TV advertising on a smaller budget. So how can companies that are just starting out make the most of this winning channel without splashing the big bucks?

TV campaigns 101

1) Audience. First of all, start-ups must understand their audience. While TV can offer scale and general targeting, a precise understanding of target audiences will make sure spend isn’t spent unnecessarily.

2) Ad slot. Once the audience is understood, specific ad slots can be considered. Knowing that a product is predominately targeted at female millennials for example, will narrow down potential inventory.

Most businesses like the idea of their ads appearing during a prime-time TV show on a major broadcast channel, but the cost of these slots is often prohibitive for start-ups. Instead, new businesses can look for slots on smaller specialist subject TV channels that will appeal specifically to their target audience, or slots that air on mainstream channels during off-peak times. Their ads may reach fewer eyeballs, but they could be just as or even more effective at driving response. Continuous campaign measurement allows start-ups to see which slots are most effective and make changes in-flight to leverage the best performing channels and dayparts.   

3) Ad format. When we think about TV advertising, the mind goes to expensive sponsorship deals or traditional 30-second commercials. But there are alternatives for companies on a smaller budget. Cost-effective short-form ads of 15 or six seconds are gaining ground, giving start-ups the opportunity to connect with audiences and get their message across before viewers are distracted by another activity. These shorter ads might not work for a purely performance-driven campaign but help to build brand awareness.

4) Timing. Campaign duration also impacts the viability of TV advertising for start-ups. To begin with campaigns don’t need to run for months, four to six weeks will provide enough data to drive results and help start-ups understand where to focus future marketing efforts. By employing advanced measurement technologies campaign performance can be understood to determine which slots are meeting brand KPIs and driving ROI. These insights can be used to optimise campaigns in-flight, although valuable findings should still be uncovered during a post-campaign analysis.

5) Creative. TV ad creatives can be developed in-house but most start-ups will need the resource of a creative agency to deliver a quality ad and provide a deeper understanding of the market. To make the most of agency partnerships, brand objectives should be set to ensure consistency between brand messaging and the end goal, whether this is website visits, sales or offline activity.

6) Budget. Cost is understandably a significant factor for start-up businesses and it’s true, quality TV advertising doesn’t come cheap. However, when the above tactics are put into place, companies can make sure they achieve the most effective campaign based on available budgets.

After the Ad Airs

When the TV ad airs it isn’t the end of the marketing process, it is just the beginning. With three-quarters of viewers using a connected device while watching the big screen, TV is a powerful driver of digital activity such as website visits and app downloads. It also helps to drive offline activity such as call centre enquiries and store visits.

Start-ups can make use of this activity to measure the success of their TV campaigns but they can also use it to their advantage by synchronising digital campaigns with TV slots. For example, in the vital minutes after a TV ad airs – when consumer engagement and intent-to-buy are at their highest – start-ups can run paid search campaigns to ensure their results top the search rankings for relevant keywords. This provides the opportunity to lead potential customers smoothly to the next stage in the purchase journey, whether that’s a product demo on YouTube or a dedicated page on the brand’s website.     

For start-up businesses, TV advertising may seem about as realistic as the San Francisco 49ers winning the Super Bowl (and for non-NFL fans that’s pretty unlikely), but this powerful channel is far from out of reach. By creating shorter ads, identifying cost-effective slots, and measuring and optimising campaigns in real time, as well as synchronising TV with digital campaigns such as search, start-up businesses can make their TV budgets stretch further and maximise their return on this champion channel.

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