The commonly held belief is that in June, July and August, consumers are on holiday, outside socialising or taking part in other activities that move their eyes away from the box. In fact, last year viewers watched more TV on average each week in July (26 minutes 56 seconds) and August (27 minutes 44 seconds) than they did in September (26 minutes 13 seconds), according to BARB data – although the Olympics may have had a part to play in the uplift.
For the moment, however, when eyeballs (or perceived eyeballs) turn away, so do the advertisers – but in a much more marked fashion. While actual viewing drop off falls about 8 per cent, advertising revenue decreases by as much as 20 per cent in the summer months, according to one media buyer’s data.
BARB data currently only tells one side of the story. From this autumn the organisation will also include the measurement of viewing on other devices beyond the TV set, which TV marketing body Thinkbox executive chair Tess Alps says may prevent the market from continuing to “over-respond” to the summer from next year.
Richard Morris, managing director of media agency Vizeum, says such “broad” and often “lazy” conventions can be a “hinderance” to progress.
He adds: “I do worry there is a convention that means simple planning is based on [the belief that] less people are watching TV. These kinds of broad trends mean you don’t activate nuances [like temperature] and people aren’t making sure their creative and planning [on other media at this time] has no dead ends.”
The launch of Sky’s AdSmart, which is understood to be entering its first trial phase next month, could change attitudes towards TV trading. The internet display-style product offers brands the change to target specific audiences – based on age, postcode, household composition and other Experian data – during live TV ad breaks.
Simon Broderick, head of TV at Mediacom, says the typical 8-week lead period before booking ads could begin to be “tidied” up with such a service.
He adds: “AdSmart should shift lead times and open up TV to a whole world of advertisers. Big brand marketers say a penny spent on TV is never a penny wasted, but that can seem like the aspirational sense of TV. I think the main drive will be regional advertisers. Hopefully it will make trading more digital rather than analog as just because BARB volumes go down, doesn’t mean your prime audience aren’t watching in the summer.”
In the digital space, this month Facebook embarked on a B2B marketing drive, looking to rouse the interest of media agencies and marketers, lolling on their roof terraces thinking their work was done, in its mobile offering. The social network hoped its branded ice cream truck, towels and sun cream would shift the “historic” lull in ad buying behaviour over the summer.
Just as Facebook’s education programme pointed to the uplift in consumers using its app to tag themselves in pictures and the beach and check-in to various holiday locations, Alps also points out that summer can even be prime time for advertisers on TV.
She adds: “Every piece of research I’ve seen has shown that people are in a good frame of mind for changing behaviour over the summer. People go on holiday and think they’ll try that new beer or read a new newspaper.”
It can sometimes feel in the summer months – and especially weeks as warm as the ones we have been experiencing – that marketers are setting their TV budgets aside for a rainy day. But with TV trading at a fraction of the cost of other months, June, July and August could soon be the ideal quarter for brands to get their messages in front of the right audience at the right time.