Posts Tagged: TV advertising

Rose-tinted testicles

My highlight from this year’s Media 360 was when John Nolan of North One TV, talking about the dangers of nostalgia for a bygone TV era, just stopped himself before advising delegates not to look at the past through “rose-tinted testicles”. I can ‘testify’ it is indeed a dangerous game.

At Thinkbox we try to avoid rose-tinted anythings at industry events.  There is still the occasional danger that a speaker will get the basic facts about TV wrong and we’ll have to put our arm in the air and correct the telly bollocks being spoken . Read more on Rose-tinted testicles…

Room for the Inns

I know they probably weren’t, but if Mary and Joseph had somehow been watching Comic Relief this year, they would have seen a sketch in which Lenny Henry tried to persuade James Corden’s Smithy to come to the BBC to help sort out which celebrity messiah should go to Africa. Read more on Room for the Inns…

Ofcom’s ‘most missed’ media misses the point

Which would you miss most: your iPod, iTunes or music itself? Let’s say you are only allowed to take one with you to a desert island. Stupid question right?

Today, you may have read about a survey by the usually very helpful and insightful Ofcom. It asked a similar sort of question. It found that young people say they are more likely to miss mobile phones or ‘the internet’ above TV. This is the first time TV has not come top of Ofcom’s most missed for younger people (it is still top overall). Inevitably, this has been seized upon by some as a worrying sign for TV. Read more on Ofcom’s ‘most missed’ media misses the point…

A graph to remember (we hope)

A picture is allegedly worth a thousand words, though of course moving pictures with sound (aka TV) are worth even more.

Sadly we don’t have any TV to make our point here, so a picture will have to do. It shows what each medium’s share of total advertising has been since 1995, according to the official Advertising Association/WARC figures:

  Read more on A graph to remember (we hope)…

A Pepsi challenge: make ‘friends’, lose customers

There have been some shenanigans across the Atlantic that have seen social media’s power to impact on the bottom line being put under a glaring spotlight.

Pepsi had been gearing up for a major social media push for quite some time, calling for ideas as far back as 2008. Its main activity in this area kicked off early last year: the Pepsi Refresh Project funds small public projects based on online votes. The Project was funded primarily – and very publically – with money taken from Pepsi’s TV budget. TV had been sacrificed for social media. Read more on A Pepsi challenge: make ‘friends’, lose customers…

Babes, bars & sunburnt Brits*

Have you joined a choir, applied to be a midwife or booked a flight to Benidorm recently? Or are you perhaps in a choir of midwives on a tour of the Costa Blanca? If so, you may be experiencing the benefits of watching TV. Read more on Babes, bars & sunburnt Brits*…

Calm down dear, it’s only a commercial

Knickers are getting twisted again. The Rasputin-like myths around TV ad-skipping will not lie down and die. If ‘ad-skipping’ is a problem, how come we’re watching a record number of TV ads at normal speed in the UK (2.6 billion a day)? The answer is the bleeding obvious: ad-skipping is not such a problem.

But you wouldn’t know that if you listened to some of the commentary around recent developments in TV, namely the arrival of product placement in UK-originated programmes from next Monday; a recommendation by a House of Lords committee that the number of minutes of TV advertising should be reduced; and Ofcom’s announcement this week that terrestrial commercial television broadcasters will be allowed longer advert breaks during dramas.

We thought we had done a reasonable job explaining the (minimal) impact of digital recorders like Sky+ or Freeview+ on the number of ads being watched, but we were maybe a bit too optimistic. Some recent commentators have insisted on making a link between ad-skipping and changes to TV advertising, as though every change is some sort of reaction to ad-skipping. But there is no link.

What makes it all the more irritating is that the facts are so freely available, and not just from us, should anyone bother to check. Ad-skipping seems to be the one issue where commentators don’t feel they should check the facts; instead they rely on what they reckon might be happening based on what they and their circle are doing.

If anyone reading this has been asked to write an article, appear on a radio phone-in show or a 24 hour news channel on the subject of TV advertising and they suspect they might get asked about the topic of ad avoidance please, please ring us for an up-to-date briefing.

In the mean time, here, once more with feeling, are the facts:

* Linear TV viewing in the UK reached a record high in 2010 of over 4 hours a day per viewer on average. An additional 1%-2% is watched on-demand online.
* Commercial TV accounts for nearly two-thirds of viewing, so the viewing of ads – at normal speed – has never been higher.
* The average UK viewer watches 46 ads each a day at normal speed (and collectively the UK watches 2.6 billion a day).
* The number of TV ads watched is about 35% higher than in 1999 and 23% higher than 2005.
* Recorded viewing represents just 7.3% of all TV viewing. 92.7% of the TV watched in the UK cannot be fast-forwarded. Two-thirds of ads are fast-forwarded in recorded viewing, so overall 4.8% of ads are lost to ‘zipping’.
* In homes that own a digital recorder (48% according to Ofcom), recorded viewing is higher, but still only 14% (this has decreased from 16% two years ago).
* According to data from Sky+ households, when people get Sky+ they watch 17% more TV and, as a result, watch more ads than before they owned one.
* BARB does not count any ad unless it is viewed at normal speed, so those that are fast-forwarded are free to advertisers, though clearly there is value in seeing them.
* ‘Zapping’ ie switching channels at ad breaks has always been a way of avoiding ads but the minute by minute BARB measurement properly accounts for this so advertisers only pay for people watching their ad.
* Research by Thinkbox and others has shown that viewers invest in digital recorders because they enjoy watching TV and want to capture more of it, not because they militantly want to fast-forward the ads.
* Many people, of all ages, enjoy lots of TV ads and will go online after seeing them on TV and watch them again, recommend them to friends, comment about them on Twitter, or join a Facebook groups for them. Unsurprisingly, they like good ads a lot more than average ones (though even the average ones work and make brands famous ref our heading).

Read more on Calm down dear, it’s only a commercial…

What ads should – or could – we bring back?

Celebrities who appear on TV talent shows often talk about the raft of positive benefits they experience; losing weight, improving their fitness, marrying Jordan, and the obligatory emotional “journey” are all very well, but the most valuable of all is that they are suddenly catapulted back into the affections of the nation once again as they reignite (and sometimes exceed) their fame of previous years.

A parallel process of reinvention and rediscovery also appears to be happening in the ad break. If you were watching Dancing on Ice last night you would have seen one of the most iconic British adverts of all time, Yell’s Fly Fishing starring J.R. Hartley, remade for 2011 with a new leading man, a new search for a lost classic and a new way to search. Rapier’s 2011 remake of the 1983 AMV ad follows a new character – former DJ, Day V Lately – embarking on a hunt for a lost trance mix of a 1992 track he produced called ‘Pulse and Thunder.’

This canny homage to a well loved classic aims to tap into viewers’ latent feelings of warmth and affection for the advertising and the brand, while making a valid point about how Yell’s offering has evolved over the last three decades.

And Yell is not alone. Other brands like Persil, Hovis, Milkybar, PG Tips and Tetley have all drawn on and reinvigorated past TV ad creative in recent years. And some have just unashamedly repeated them. You might have enjoyed another touch of TV déjà vu recently when in amongst the newly minted creativity of the latest ad break you could suddenly hear Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love and watch as a beautiful woman with a sore throat dressed in a 90s suit gets into a lift to be kissed sensuously on the neck by an imaginary man. Yes, the steamy Halls Soothers advert The Kiss, which first aired in 1993, has also been back on our screens.

So, is the industry embracing some kind of retro aesthetic or is this just a recession-inspired practical acknowledgement of the value of all that TV adstock lying dormant, waiting to be reignited?

Whatever is going on, it got me wondering what other ads we’d like to bring back? What would you choose? Help us come up with a good list and we’ll put a reel together and put them up on our website.

Read more on What ads should – or could – we bring back?…


I doubt that the big wedding of the year coming up in April (I’m talking Pattison/Weedon here) sent out any invitations to X +1 on them. The ‘+ 1’ designation can’t help but sound off-hand. But what might sound a bit rude when referring to a human being sounds like a great offer to TV viewers.

Plus 1 channels are a very valuable tool in the evolving TV world, whether you’re a viewer or a broadcaster, offering their own particular form of time-shifting and control. They recognise real viewer behaviour and, when added to the DTR, narrative repeats and on-demand TV, are helping people watch more of the TV they love.

The DTR is brilliant if you’re going to be out, or if two programmes clash, but you do have to plan ahead. On-demand catch-up services are also very popular and cater for people who get a recommendation after the broadcast, either from friends or maybe a newspaper review. They are also essential if you have no DTR (more than half the UK doesn’t) or you’ve messed up the recording.

Plus 1 channels do something different. Middle-aged posh people like me might trawl the Radio Times and pop programmes on the recorder but that’s not what most people do. They have their appointment to view programmes that form the basis of their TV routines, but otherwise they switch on the telly and start flicking through channels or the EPG to see what they fancy. Serendipity is a wonderful thing that can cause viewers to stumble into terrific programmes that might not have caught their eye from a listing. We also know that watching live is the default for the majority of viewers – 93% of TV is watched live – and is preferred for many reasons, of which social media chat is just the latest addition.

Plus 1 channels capitalise on both these behaviours and offer an immediate solution to when you bump into a great programme halfway through but wish you could watch from the start. Respondents in our recent Tellyporting study told us that they valued on-demand TV for catch-up but ideally they don’t want to wait a whole day. Plus 1 channels (and a few +2 channels) solve this. In the Alps household we also depend on +1 channels for watching Channel 4 news (7pm is just too early for me) and for managing all the recording we want to do. There are frequently 3 or 4 brilliant programmes on at the same time but our Sky+ box can only record 2 things at the same time. Along come the +1s to solve that too.

Overall, +1 channels account for about 5% of linear TV viewing but a higher percentage for those specific channels that have them. Channel 4+1 accounts for 11% of the Channel 4 total and the numbers are even higher for smaller channels; Dave ja vu delivers 25% and Living+1 36% of their parent channel totals. There is also a modest but discernible demographic bias to the 16-34s which makes them even more valuable slots for advertisers, though probably not worth changing the ad break line-up for. The numbers for individual programmes can be remarkable; My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding doubles its audience through C4+1.

ITV1 only recently joined the +1 club, on January 11th, in part because CRR has only just been relaxed to allow +1 viewing to be aggregated into the parent channel numbers. The data from the first 2 weeks show that ITV1+1 added about 3% to the parent channel; a smaller % than for most other +1 channels but exactly as expected. The bigger the channel the more people watch it as broadcast and it is after all an extra 3% of the biggest commercial channel. It’s another part of the trend towards the re-aggregation of viewing around favourite TV that we are witnessing

It’s not a cheap option to run a +1 channel. All programming rights and carriage costs have to be paid for again, so a broadcaster really has to evaluate those against what a completely separate service might cost and deliver. But it looks like they are a good investment that works for broadcasters and viewers.

Read more on One-plussed…

4 hours a day could be peak time for TV (or it could not)

In case you’ve missed it – and, if you have, it’s here – we’re now watching over 4 hours of live, linear TV a day. This is the most since records began. This really is remarkable and is worth taking a moment to consider.

There are many reasons for linear TV’s pretty spectacular performance (in one year it has increased, on average, by 2 hours a week per viewer). The take-up of new TV technologies like DTRs; on-demand TV services – which we now know lead people back to watching linear TV; the economic and weather climates; the new measurement system introduced by BARB in January last year…and of course fantastic TV shows.

The press releases Thinkbox issues on a quarterly basis announcing the BARB figures have been rather similar for the last couple of years. Every one announced that live, linear viewing has increased on the same period the year before. The good news for TV was getting predictable. The only real difference between the announcements was the new evidence that was constantly emerging about how technologies and activities that people predicted might harm live viewing were in fact strengthening it.

Now however, it is not quite so predictable, so we’re making a prediction: live, linear TV viewing could well have reached its peak. We fully expect to issue a press release in the not too distant future announcing that linear TV viewing levels have either stayed the same or, perhaps, dipped a little from their current record high.

When this inevitably does happen, please don’t be alarmed or tempted to start reheating decline of TV narratives (interesting blog from Ad Contrarian on that topic here). Linear TV viewing has to stabilise at some time; we’re never going to get to 25 hours a day.

But remember that, alongside our daily dose of 4 hours linear TV, we’re also consuming extra helpings of on-demand TV via devices other than our TV sets (BARB estimates there is an additional 1% of TV viewed via other devices).

TV is now a solar system, not a single planet, and it is expanding as a whole.

Read more on 4 hours a day could be peak time for TV (or it could not)…