Only a few months ago, television advertisers were rolling out their biggest and best campaigns of the year in front of the massive audience watching the NFL’s championship game. These ads are always among the most expensive every year, both in terms of placement and production. But just a few months later, that macroscopic scale of TV advertising was stalled by the same microscopic virus that has brought the world to a standstill.
Suddenly audience volumes were surging, with more and more people tuned in to their TVs to see the latest news or watch their favorite shows amid quarantines and lockdowns. But the advertisers were retreating, pulling ads and waiting to ride out the pandemic. This led to a vacuum – ample airtime and audiences, but limited content – causing placement costs to plummet and providing unprecedented new opportunities for smaller brands to find affordable ad blocks.
In turn, today we have an entirely different landscape for TV than even a few months ago.
Rising Viewers, Dropping Revenues
The New York Times reported last month on the plight of TV stations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Citing Kantar reporting, the New York Times notes that advertisers pulled back – in a big way – at the same time most of us moved to working from home or experiencing furloughs or layoffs, trimming TV spending by 40-plus percent in nearly all industries across the board. This meant that stations suddenly had an abundance of airtime to fill – some of which could be supplanted in the short term by local promos and network ads, but still leaving a major gap in their programming blocks and their budgets.
Making matters worse, some of the most appealing commercial slots – ads during new programs and live sports – have largely dried up as well with sports canceled and popular shows on hiatus or delayed by production shutdowns. This means that the highly desirable slots have become even more scarce, providing little incentive to spur advertisers to act. As you’d expect, this all combined to open the door for major discounts at local stations, which slashed prices for airtime – significantly, in most cases – in an effort to spur advertisers to action. CNBC reports some markets are looking at ad revenue declines of 50 percent or more for the quarter year over year.
However, the deeply cut prices worked, as you may have noticed, as either a consumer or a company. Local airwaves here in Western New York and all across the nation are rife with ads from businesses and organizations that you may have never seen advertised before, all taking advantage of bargain basement pricing. But the shift change goes beyond just the pricing the new diversity in those commercial blocks.
Plain, Simple Advertising
For many of these same organizations new to TV advertising, there comes a new problem – what to run. Without having a retinue of previous advertisements to pull from or refresh, these newly advertising entities needed to create something for TV on a shoestring budget and often without much to draw from for creative material. Some stations offer basic production services, which offers some opportunity for ad creation for those with bare bones options. But for those without footage or – in some cases – without high resolution video or even photography, the options are incredibly limited.
This has led to ads needing to themselves be more creative. And simple. The recent pool of ads has relied far more on digital graphics, using stock footage or stills to create very basic, yet informative ads that rely more on text transitions and voiceovers, incorporating logos or what limited content they have available when possible. This isn’t just true for the smaller or first-time advertisers, either, as we’ve also seen big brands getting in on this approach. For example, Arby’s is currently playing its ad for the pecan chicken salad sandwich from last year, and simply refreshing the voiceover and blurring out a second sandwich no longer available.
Television advertising – at least for now – has a lower bar. There’s a reduced cost and an easier standard to achieve. No longer do brands need to have big, showy and high-production commercials to stand out. There’s understated simplicity in many of the ads popping up on commercial breaks now, and it’s started to level the playing field for small- and mid-sized businesses competing against larger, regional and national brands. As long as the message is clear, concise and resonates with the audience, it’s easier than it’s been in a long time to make TV achievable.
From Broadcast to WiFi
But terrestrial platforms aren’t the only force in town any longer. Streaming platforms have surged in the past few years, both as a secondary platform to traditional antenna, cable and satellite providers, and as a stand-alone option for the growing ranks of cordcutters. In just the first few weeks of the pandemic, these steaming outlets saw a surge of new interest, with platforms like VIZIO seeing an incredible 59 percent growth over just the first three weeks of March, as Forbes reported.
With increasing audiences, streaming television – also known as OTT, or over-the-top – has become a new major opportunity area, surging in the recent weeks after building as a force slowly during the past few years. OTT offers a number of advantages for advertisers, including lower overall cost for impressions and integration with smart devices and viewability through traditional browsers that allows viewers to directly engage with a website platform. These ads also can be placed with more direct targeting based on demographic and geographic factors to help more closely align placements with the desired audience, leading to higher interest and engagement within the market you’re looking to reach.
In some instances, OTT can also be purchased as an add-on to terrestrial advertising buys. With growing audiences and more tangible statistics available, this style of video ad provides an incredible opportunity and should be a priority to help not only grow your brand visibility, but provide actionable data you can use to improve and retarget your marketing dollars.
What Does All This Mean for My Business?
While the current climate hasn’t created quite a Gold Rush scenario – or at least not yet – it has opened the door wider for television and video advertising in a way we haven’t seen in years. Prices for placements are low, and simple and minimalistic ads are working. If you’ve ever thought about TV, OTT or streaming preroll ads, now is the time to take advantage and leverage these platforms as part of your overall marketing strategy – or your plan to promote your brand as part of your approach to reopening and returning to something resembling business as normal.
At JFG, we’ve helped many of our clients identify opportunities to take their message on air and optimize their existing schedules as a result of the turmoil that has come about from the coronavirus. Whether you’re new to TV, just considering it, or wonder if it might work for you, we’re happy to chat and review your goals and your budget and help you put together a plan of action. We handle everything from placement and production coordination to scriptwriting and supporting campaigns, so reach out to us online or give us a call and find out how we can help.
Bringing with him more than a decade of experience in traditional and online news media, digital marketing and content production experience, Ryan Yaeger is the copywriter and digital content strategist at J. Fitzgerald Group. When not busy wordsmithing at his proverbial word anvil or working on client SEO, you can find him testing new board games or cheering for the Bills or Sabres.