TV vs Digital Advertising

Here in Starship, we listen to a lot of podcasts. The creative director likes a mix of American politics and true crime, our social media manager’s trying out Serial, and I’m more of a law/politics person. Unless it’s Game of Thrones season, then it’s Game of Thrones all the way. Pity we’ll have to wait till next year for the ice dragons. Dragons aside, podcasts are a fun way to get some background noise while cycling home, during a daily commute, or helping me get into the zone. Usually, the stuff I listen to doesn’t really have that much of a bearing on advertising and marketing. When it does, it feels random. Like last week, when one of my favourite podcasts touched on one of the important questions of many modern ad strategies: TV vs Digital Advertising.

This question was asked on the highly popular American political podcast, Pod Save America: “When was the last time you watched a television ad?” The hosts, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor, were Obama staffers who were with him during his campaign and on into the White House. Dan Pfeiffer was the Communications Director, the Jons were speechwriters, and Tommy Vietor was the National Security Spokesman. The episode was discussing American political advertising in general, but the points made were:

  • Current strategies that are direct mail, TV, or phone call based are based on outdated views of how people communicate.
  • When was the last time anyone paid attention to something in their mailbox or answered an unknown phonecall?
  • If a political consultant recommends a bigger budget on TV instead of digital, get another consultant.
  • Offline touchpoints are an inefficient way to communicate.

Ooh. Fighting words.

Digital Generation

Pod Save America was discussing advertising in terms of US political advertising in particular. We’ve discussed political advertising before in greater depth here, so we’re not looking to reinvent the wheel. Thinking about whether or not digital advertising is more useful than TV for a particular campaign would depend on a variety of factors:

  • Who you’re trying to reach: your target audience.
  • The product or service or idea that you’re trying to sell.
  • Your KPIs – key performance indicators, or the goals you want to meet.
  • The targeted geographical area
  • Your budget.

You can figure out a lot of what’s right for you by setting aside a bit of money for research. Should research be relevant to your particular goals, we recommend doing it — Starship routinely arranges tailored research solutions for clients looking for some certainty. That being said, with the internet being now a core part of everyone’s life, it’s highly likely that a digital campaign should be part of your strategy regardless. According to a 2018 Digital Report:

Australia has some of the highest penetration numbers in the world – 88% internet usage, 69% of the population are active social media users with mobile penetration at the 78% mark, which puts Australia in the top quintile globally across all measures. Additionally, AU’s social usage on mobile is the fastest growth area at 7% year-over-year.

What we did find surprising, however, is how much time Aussies spend on the internet – 5 hours and 34 minutes daily – up 15 minutes since last year. Granted, this is a far cry from Thailand’s 9+ hours a day on the top end, but it’s still a meaningful amount of time, which is broadly attributed to Australian’s further integration of digital technology into everyday life. Our key takeaway? The majority of that time – 1 hours and 39 minutes – is spent on social media.

Facebook still reigns supreme. It isn’t dying — its usage has grown 6% in the last year alone. With the amount of time that Australians spend online and on social media, targeted digital offers can be a highly cost-effective way of reaching your intended audience. We’re not talking just dinky little banner ads. We’re talking about a social media presence that produces great content that engages with your target audience over multiple touchpoints.

The Relevance of TV

Maybe things are different in America — in Australia, people do still watch TV. According to B&T:

According to the latest Australian Video Viewing Report by OzTAM, Regional TAM and Nielsen, 19.64 million Australians watched broadcast TV on in-home TV sets each week between October and December 2017.

While 18 to 24-year-olds are relatively lighter viewers compared to other age groups, 63.1 per cent of this group watched broadcast TV weekly. In total, Australians watched 74 hours and 58 minutes of broadcast TV each month in the latest quarter.

Even with the ease of playback and record in today’s technological society, 89 per cent of this was watched live-to-air, 8.8 per cent was played back within seven days, and 2.3 per cent was shifted between eight and 28 days of the original broadcast. […] Australians over 18 now spend on average 21 hours and 36 minutes per month watching online video on a desktop, smartphone or tablet.

Twenty-five to 34-year-olds are the heaviest viewers on smartphones (12 hours and 31 minutes per month), while 18 to 24-year-olds watch the most video on desktops or laptops (11 hours and 59 minutes). Across the adult population, Australians spend on average six hours and 11 minutes watching streamed video on tablets.

As such, where relevant to the product and the audience, TV can still be an important part of a campaign. It’s not mutually exclusive either: assets produced for TV can be used in a digital offering. As to the cost of media expenditure on TV, it’s possible to target a TV buy to save costs and better reach the people you need. TV advertising can also provide a veneer of trust and legitimacy that a purely digital campaign may lack among older audiences.

Where American politics are currently concerned, the so-called ‘insurgent’ campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Presley were very much built on getting out votes from voters who either didn’t tend to vote at midterm elections or had never voted before — especially younger voters. In this regard, it does make sense to have a heavy digital push combined with a lot of door-knocking and grassroots efforts. Ocasio-Cortez and Presley didn’t get elected solely because of good digital advertising — they worked hard to connect with would-be voters on various levels. Meaningful engagement with a target audience is key. While traditional TV and advertising are definitely no longer 100% relevant to all products and strategies, it might still be necessary depending on the product and the research. Digital, on the other hand, is an exciting new aspect of advertising that can be very powerful when harnessed according to a strategy. Want to know more? Get in touch.

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