TV advertising seems like a good route for well-established brands that have big budgets and a product that appeals to large demographics. Understandably, many smaller brands and startups are hesitant to enter into this world.
If you were to ask Bobby Richardson, Offline Marketing Lead at Blinkist, he’d say that moving into TV is actually a smart move for any brand, regardless of their size. And it's an especially good idea for those that inhabit a specific niche.
If these brands know how to do TV advertising right, they can market on niche TV channels and gain expose with their target market.
Do you know how to use TV advertising to improve your marketing efforts for your niche brand?
Don't worry if the answer is no. We sat down with Bobby to find out more about growing brand awareness on niche TV channels. We discussed the difference between direct response and brand TV, how to convince your boss to provide a budget for your TV ads, and how it will all look in five years’ time.
TV Marketing as Performance Marketing?
In Bobby’s own experience at Blinkist, TV is very much a performance marketing channel for a brand. However, the financial impact of TV marketing is still a gray area as it can be a lot more difficult to measure its impact.
The best way brand growth can be attributed to TV marketing is by asking “how did you hear about us?” when people sign up to the app.
We’re trying to attribute every euro we spend. We know that TV has an impact on our brand, but ultimately the objective of TV’s impact on brand is to find out what the financial impact is on the company.
Plenty of startups are able to financially support making the move into TV advertising. Take Airbnb, for example. They launched their first global advertising campaign in 2014.
Back then, it didn’t make financial sense to take the plunge into TV, but ever since this first campaign increased their brand awareness, they’ve been able to create some very successful TV spots.
Just Eat is another startup that managed to move into the mainstream using TV advertisements. In 2019, the company launched its very first TV ad featuring a true brand message. Before, Just Eat had been focused on the convenience it provides customers, but this ad focused on the simple joy of enjoying takeaway food.
Drawing the Line Between Direct Response TV and Brand TV
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of TV advertising to niche audiences, let’s touch on the type of advert to run. There are two distinctions for TV: DR (direct response) and brand.
DR adverts are very specific in that they always include a call-to-action as their main purpose is to prompt viewers to do something, e.g. visit a website or register their interest.
Brand adverts don’t have the call-to-action and instead focus on telling the brand’s story.
While others see a stark difference between the two, Bobby does not differentiate between DR TV and brand TV:
This whole idea that if you produce creative that doesn’t have a call-to-action, all of a sudden this is magically some kind of brand building exercise. And as soon as you put 'download today' it becomes a horrible DR TV ad. I’m just not convinced that that’s really the role or purpose of creative.
Bobby believes that trying to automate customer acquisition through good advertising should be the ultimate goal — whether that’s through adverts that are perceived as brand or DR. Regardless of the genre you place different ads in, their main purpose is to drive people to your website.
One example of an advert that is DR masquerading as brand is the John Lewis’ Christmas TV campaign. This brand's ads often appear in the most-watched lists for Christmas adverts and the launch has become one of the most anticipated Christmas events for British consumers.
The John Lewis adverts never feature a call-to-action and viewers are never persuaded to do anything in particular. They are just a heartwarming festive story — therefore, a very obvious brand advert. But the intention and purpose of the campaign are very clear — it’s to get people to buy from the John Lewis brand for Christmas.
John Lewis has been able to expertly hide a DR TV ad within a brand ad; the company is using a brand story to drive people to its site and stores.
How to Reconcile a Niche Audience with TV Being a Mass-Market Channel
Think your audience is too niche for TV? Bobby would tell you to think again.
When we started at Blinkist, we had a slightly different strategy. We did TV more to make a splash and tried to push ourselves a bit more “mass-market.” So, we didn’t start from a niche, bottom-up approach. But absolutely, there’s loads of space for that in TV. It depends a little bit on the country and product but, for example in Canada, there are so many little TV stations that you pay about $5 for a TV spot. When you buy a bunch of those, if you’ve never done TV before, you’re absolutely hitting a new audience.
But John Lewis is a big brand and it runs its adverts on mainstream television. What happens if your brand is niche? How can you reconcile this with mass-market TV?
There’s no reason why embracing TV advertising has to mean appealing to the mass market. Some country markets, especially in the UK and Germany, feature smaller, cheaper TV stations — some of which appeal to certain niches.
These markets are also moving more towards sponsorships — a brand can pay to sponsor a specific TV series and have their ads played just before it starts and at the start and end of each commercial break. Sponsoring shows and investing in TV has shown to increase advertising effectiveness by 40%.
Just because you are considered a niche brand now doesn’t mean you have to stay one forever. Bobby believes that TV is good for brands that are looking to move from being niche into the mainstream. It’s a great opportunity to put the brand in front of as many people and open it up to as wide an audience as possible.
Want to remain niche for now? No problem; TV will also help with that as well. After all, not everyone in your niche might know about you yet. However, they do watch TV, so purchasing some advertising spots will be the best thing to appeal to them.
For instance, an Australian company that sells horse racing paraphernalia might want to look into buying spots on Sky Racing, a channel that specializes in thoroughbred, harness, and greyhound racing.
Meanwhile, a brand that sells cookware could look into investing in adverts on the US Cooking Channel.
Niche TV in Different Countries
How you go about TV advertising for a niche audience is going to be very dependent on your market countries and the particular product or service being advertised. It will also depend on where your product or market stands in the current market.
Bobby uses Blinkist as an example. Currently, the brand is targeting a higher-income audience. Two good markets for them to initially target were the UK and Australia. This is because the TV landscape in each country is extremely similar, with both mainstream "Freeview" channels and paid-for subscription ones.
Foxtel is Australia’s subscription provider and its 35% penetration is a fair bit bigger than Sky, the UK’s main subscription service. Bobby and his team at Blinkist knew that these were the perfect markets to target. Not only are they cheaper to advertise on than the mainstream Freeview channels, but the fact that they are paid-for suggests that people with certain income sizes are watching them.
When it comes to targeting other markets, the outlook is slightly different. In the French market, there isn’t the same kind of price increase when you try to go more mainstream. You also don’t need as much frequency build-up so you can spread your money more among different stations. Germany is somewhere in the middle. You max out the small stations a lot quicker.
And as previously mentioned, Canada has hundreds of tiny stations that you can buy $5 and $10 dollar spots on.
How to Convince your CEO/CMO to Spend on TV Advertising
It’s easy to get excited about TV advertising and forget about one major blocker many brand managers have: persuading their CEO/CMO that a marketing channel other than digital is worth the budget.
This is often the case with TV advertising, as it can be very difficult to track and prove that it’s bringing results.
People will be skeptical if you are in an industry that hasn’t done any “untrackable” marketing yet. There’s so much information in the world, it will be possible for a CEO to find something that tells them that there’s no point in doing TV if they want to.
One way to get a digital-focused CEO on board is by showing that there is going to be a point where the brand can no longer grow in digital channels. An example of this is the use of adverts on social media.
Sure, you target social media ads so that they are seen by specific demographics. That can be a great way to initially reach your audience. However, there are only so many times you can target an ad to consumers before they start to see it as spam. Once everyone in your audience on a social platform has seen the ad too many times, it will stop being as effective as it once was.
For someone who’s slightly more unsure—take a note of the fact that the TV industry is great at promoting itself and at showing why it’s a valuable marketing and growth tool. It’s also a good idea to point out a brand that the CEO aspires to that is doing TV well.
If your CEO has always wanted to contend with Nike or McDonald’s, why not make up a showreel of some of their top TV ads to give them a taster of the things your own brand could be doing?
Advertising on Streaming Services
More and more brands are moving toward advertising on streaming services as an alternative to TV. But is it really an alternative?
Bobby explains why advertising on streaming services—platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video is still very much different from advertising on traditional TV:
Streaming still encompasses so many different things, which for us mostly sits within the more digital marketing channels. Certainly, ‘Over-the-Top’ TV is a very interesting field to enter into. The problem with video-on-demand and OTT TV is that it’s been seen as a way of delivering more targeted niches and audiences and the problem that it solves for the industry at the minute is that it provides media sellers with a way to target your customer better. So far, they’ve just seen the dollar signs.
Sure, you can target your customer better, but the CPM is 10 to 15x the size of traditional TV.
Blinkist isn’t so niche that they need to pay 10 to 15x the CPM to hit their audience. The media sellers seem to have got over-excited about what they can offer and, in Bobby’s opinion, they need to be more client-focused.
For the cost, it’s not bringing in the traffic you’d expect, and this way traditional TV advertising is a safer bet.
What Will TV Advertising Look Like in 5 Years’ Time?
TV is definitely going to grow, and it’s not just Bobby who thinks so — many experts predict that TV advertising spending will increase to $75 billion by 2022. So, it’s a market that isn’t slowing down just yet.
Apart from growth, OTT and traditional TV might converge. But, for the consumer, not much will change. We’ve already seen something like this in years past — back when analog became digital TV.
Without knowing it, we might watch linear TV along with streaming and OTT. This could provide advertisers with the holy grail as they will be able to target better. e.g. people might see different ad breaks in the same show.
Another shift could be the interconnection of different marketing channels, e.g. there has always been talk of billboards that will know you are near so will fire up their displays accordingly. This hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps it’s something we’ll see in the next five years?
Bobby believes that showing Facebook ads based on certain IP addresses or showing certain ads to people who share certain hashtags on Twitter could become commonplace too.
Before we left Bobby, we asked what his number-one piece of advice would be for anyone venturing into the world of TV advertising:
Don’t use TV for your ego and don’t be too idealistic. Treat it as any other marketing channel.
To recap some of Bobby’s wisdom, it’s very much worth moving into niche TV advertising for smaller brands, something which can be done in an affordable way. For most brands, it’s all about starting small on a niche channel that appeals to your target audience or sponsoring a related TV series.
So, first things first if you are ready to take the plunge into TV: carefully develop a strategy and consider the best stations for your ad spots. Take time to review which ones your audience is watching and which of those will bring the most bang for your buck. Don’t forget to consider the specific geographic market you want to enter either.
And when it comes to convincing CEOs that this is the best way to go? Sometimes, it’s as simple as showing them all the big brands that have managed to already make their name through TV advertising.