TV Advertising in the UKThe art of engaging viewers and creating successful advertising

Launched January 2009 Updated May 2009 10 lectures
Ms. Tess Alps
Thinkbox, UK

When you ask people what their favourite ad is the vast majority will quote a TV commercial; Smash Martians, Guinness Surfers, Levis Launderette, or one of the host of others. Most of today’s market-leading brands were built by the medium of television and this remains so; Magner’s cider, 118 118... read moreand came out of nowhere in recent years to take their markets by storm, largely thanks to TV advertising.

This series of talks will set out the major elements that make up successful TV advertising for brands, from viewers’ relationship with TV advertising, to new TV formats and technologies to the creative process and approaches to measuring TV advertising’s effectiveness.

TV ads can be extremely engaging and entertaining. They are also very memorable and therefore effective, ensuring profits for the advertisers across many years, even decades. The more we learn about how moving images with sound act on the brain the more we understand why they are so powerful. Proper econometric analysis of advertising effectiveness shows that emotional communication works best for brands in all categories. TV advertising manages to create these strong emotional bonds with brands, ensuring effectiveness of advertising.

It is important to remind ourselves that, despite the proliferation of all sorts of new media, we are watching just as much broadcast TV as we ever did in the UK – about 3.6 hours a day on average. Despite technology such as Digital TV Recorders (like Sky+), we have never watched so many TV ads – about 2.2 billion a day in 2006 – averaging about 40 per person each day. Ad avoidance (such as zapping – switching to other channels at ad breaks – and zipping – fast-forwarding through time-shifted programmes) does occur but at nothing like the levels talked about or predicted. The growth in commercial impacts is proof of the resilience of TV advertising.

The UK TV advertising market is worth approx £3.5bn in spots and sponsorship alone, with small but growing amounts being spent by brands on AFP (advertiser funded programming) and interactivity (red and green button). This revenue is the primary source of income for ITV, Channel 4 and Five and a major source of income for many digital only channels. However, direct consumer expenditure through the BBC licence fee and subscription fees support other parts of the UK television landscape.

TV advertising takes the largest share of advertising money in the UK, though this share dropped slightly in 2006 from 25.4% to 24.1%. TV’s share of display advertising only, excluding classified print and online search was 34.1%. The decline in 2006 was attributed to the growth of internet advertising expenditure, and, although this certainly had an effect, there were many other factors at work, notably the pressure on fmcg advertising budgets from retailers demanding promotions and everyday low pricing.

TV has often been accused of being an unaccountable medium. It is true that TV advertising does not have an easy response mechanism built into it, unlike print or online advertising. However the effectiveness of TV advertising is very easy to establish using proper econometric analysis. TV advertising might not capture response but it clearly drives response, either directly to retail sales or to another medium. TV advertising also has a clear and measurable impact on awareness, attitudes and perceptions of brands. The IPA Effectiveness Awards, the most rigorous in the world, is an excellent body of evidence that seems to support the assertion that TV is the most effective advertising medium, particularly when used in conjunction with other media.