Marketers overestimate consumers’ digital habits

New research shows a significant disparity between advertisers’ assumptions of TV viewing habits and real consumer behaviour.

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In the on-demand era of Netflix and Amazon Prime it can be easy to think viewers are migrating in droves from TV to online. Advertisers could, however, be missing a trick by underestimating consumer appetite for TV.

Research from Ipsos Connect and Thinkbox shows a significant disparity between advertisers’ assumptions of TV viewing habits and the real figures.

Surveying 288 advertisers and 795 ‘normal’ people during July and August 2016, the Ad Nation study found advertisers estimate the general public watch 2 hours 41 minutes of television a day, compared to the 3 hours and 35 minutes they actually consume as verified by BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) data .

The ad industry also underestimates the consumption of live TV. Some 87% of TV viewing amongst the general population is of live TV, compared to an industry estimate of just 49%.

Direct Line Group brands director Kerry Chilvers is unsurprised by the high levels watching live TV, recognising that sometimes advertisers can get carried away with what’s new and emerging. However she suggests it is a concern that marketers don’t know more about consumer behaviour.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to advertisers [that consumers watch so much live TV] as they should know what their customers’ media consumption is,” she explains.

“I’m well aware that TV is far from dead and despite channels like catch-up TV, YouTube or subscription video on-demand, live TV is the predominant channel in people’s lives.”

Inge van Ooteghem, senior vice president of upscale and midscale brands at AccorHotels UK and Ireland, thinks advertisers need to recognise that TV is an integral part of modern life.

“TV dinners have become the norm and British families continue to congregate around a television. Traditional and social media have also become an extension of the TV screen, particularly reality TV, and people are wanting to keep up with the conversation,” she says.

“I’m well aware that TV is far from dead.”

Kerry Chilvers, brands director, Direct Line Group

Babywear website My First Years was keen to tap into the pull of reality TV with the launch of its first TV advert on 12 October, and launched it to coincide with the start of ITV Be series The Mummy Diaries.

Marketing manager Nicole Rhodes explains the series was a good fit because it follows the lives of brand ambassadors Sam and Billie Faiers, and TV performs really strongly for the target audience, especially in a primetime 9pm slot.

“We had been thinking about TV for a long time and we looked at the impact it had on competitors like Notonthehighstreet. It also seemed like a great opportunity to trial TV while we were working with the girls [Billie and Sam Faiers],” she says.

“We have seen a massive uplift in traffic to the site. On the day the show aired, 70% of customers were new to the site and the next day 60% were new customers.”

Overestimating online video

According to the Ad Nation research, advertisers believe on-demand video (VoD) is much more popular than consumer behaviour actually suggests.

Advertisers estimate, for example, that the general population watches broadcaster VoD for 1 hour 21 minutes a day, when BARB and broadcaster figures put it at just 8 minutes.

In terms of subscription VoD, advertisers estimate viewing times of 1 hour 24 minutes, compared to the 11 minutes people spend watching each day. There is also an expectation among the industry that people spend as much as 1 hour 2 minutes watching YouTube daily, whereas in reality the figure is just 16 minutes.

READ MORE: Mark Ritson – Comparing TV audiences to digital views is utter nonsense

Advertisers estimate that 50% of the population are multi-screening while watching TV, when in fact the BARB and Touchpoints data pegs multi-screening at only 19%.

Thinkbox research and planning director Matt Hill believes people might better remember their usage of on-demand services, but that is short lived compared to the daily consumption of live TV.

“Subscription VoD is a new activity people are more likely to take notice of watching [compared to live TV], and with a subscription service like Netflix or Amazon Prime you’re constantly evaluating if you’re getting value,” he explains.

“Yet subscriber VoD has been found to have pretty low reach. They might watch it every now and then, and then binge watch a big series for three weeks meaning periods of intense viewing.”

Knowing the market

Because they tend to skew younger and have a greater awareness of the different forms of media, advertisers are not representative of the wider population and therefore should not base marketing decisions solely on their own experiences, argues Hill.

“In this industry we tend to be obsessed by the future and what’s happening next, but you should advertise to what people are doing now, not in five years’ time. You need to be reflective of where consumers are and should not speculate,” he adds.

The research found that advertisers were significantly more likely to use social media and watch on-demand services than the general population. Over the past three months, 93% of the advertisers surveyed had used LinkedIn, 92% YouTube, 90% Facebook, 81% Twitter, 63% Netflix and 30% Amazon Prime.

By comparison just 14% of the general public used LinkedIn over the past three months, according to the Ad Nation statistics. Some 60% of those asked had used YouTube, 62% Facebook, 22% Twitter, 30% Netflix and 15% Amazon Prime.

Hill believes these figures demonstrate the importance of using properly audited, metered data sources that are representative of the population as a whole.

“You can’t plan off the back of your own behaviour, it has to be off the back of audiences. It’s about using gut instinct and rigorous data sources,” he adds.

Chilvers agrees that advertisers should fully understand the audience in order to ensure they reduce the amount of money being wasted on channels their audience are not actually watching.

For a big product launch Direct Line will pay for a premium primetime slot, which might only happen a couple of times a year. In general the media buy is more nuanced and based on research of the target audience’s viewing habits. TV currently accounts for 40% of the Direct Line media mix.

“We tend to be obsessed by the future, but you should advertise to what people are doing now.”

Matt Hill, research and planning director, Thinkbox

“It is still the best way of talking to many people, quickly. Whether it’s a 30- or 60-second advert you can still tell a rich and engaging story about your brand,” says Chilvers.

“TV is the best mass media way to reach people quickly in terms of driving brand health, maintaining awareness and driving consideration. TV does a good job of delivering against both a brand and sales objectives.”

Television advertising offers Novotel the greatest reach and remains the best way to engage with the company’s target audience, according to van Ooteghem.

“As virtually every home has a TV viewers come from a wide cross-section of the population – this is particularly important for us as the Novotel audience is hugely varied. TV advertising is a key awareness channel, both for building and maintaining brand awareness.”

The quality of TV advertising

Television is the medium where 54% of respondents to the Ad Nation survey expect to find advertising they like, compared to 13% on social media, 11% on websites and 10% in magazines.

Some 42% of the consumers questioned feel they can trust TV adverts, compared to 13% in newspapers, 9% on websites and 8% on radio. TV was also the outlet where consumers were most likely to see adverts they remembered, and which they considered funny or emotional.

READ MORE: TV ads at 60 – How the formula has changed

According to 66% of respondents TV advertising makes a brand more famous, with 84% of those surveyed arguing that TV provides the highest quality viewing experience.

Chilvers sees this as a ringing endorsement of the quality of TV advertising in the UK: “The UK really excels at great TV work and the creative industry is one of the best in the world. With TV you have a captive audience for 60 seconds who you can engage emotionally and impactfully, which is harder to do with flat media.

“Now we need to work out what is best for online as live TV ads are not necessarily going to work for VoD. These channels are in their infancy and many advertisers are still learning the best way to engage with consumers.”

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