Thinkbox slams claims that TV ads lead to “wastage”

Tess Alps, CEO of television marketing body Thinkbox, has hit back at claims that advertising on TV leads to a “huge amount of waste”, saying the idea is a “complete misnomer”.


Marketers speaking to Marketing Week for last week’s cover feature on the future of TV advertising said the lack of options to target specific data sets on television leads to wastage when it comes to advertising spend, as their ads are only viewed by a small proportion of their demographic and many others outside it.

Alps argues that wastage in TV is a “non issue” as ad space is traded on the specific audiences brands want to target and that the volume provided by the platform means companies can reach new customers they did not realise were part of their demographic.

Brands currently buy airtime from broadcasters based on the data collected by BARB from an audience panel of 5,100 homes in the UK.

“If you’re a lager brand and you want to target 18 to 34 year-old men, that’s what you can pay for. But brands also need reach, it’s all very well targeting closely, but you never know who will buy your product,” Alps says.

She adds that an example of this is brands like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, which usually buy ad slots based on young adult audiences, but are also viewed by 50 or 70 year-olds, who then go on to buy their products.

Alps adds another example: “If a brand like Mercedes was only going to advertise to people who can afford their cars, they’d never have anybody aspiring to buy them.”

Independent research from media analytics company Ebiquity, commissioned by Thinkbox, found that television delivers the biggest return on investment compared to all other advertising mediums.

In an independent study of 3,000 ad campaigns since 2006 across nine advertising sectors, TV created an average return of £1.70 for every £1 invested, compared to the next most effective medium radio, which returned £1.48, the study said.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Oo-er. Did I really 'slam' something? How very impolite of me. I certainly disgreed with some statements in your article.

    I'd love to expound at length on the topic but my points are:

    1) Unlike paying a fixed price per page or postersite, TV is traded against audiences so you only pay for the people you want. The 'wastage' is actually a bonus.

    2) There's a vast quantity of data available via BARB that few people bother to deploy. For instance, BARB can show you where people who live alone are watching, which might help eHarmony.

    3) It's a mistake to think that you know who everyone is online. Mostly they are anonymous impacts unless people have registered on that site as is the case with most on-demand TV sites. Behavioural targeting can be helpful but also misleading and limited.

    5) There is a great deal of marketing wisdom, from Byron Sharp to the IPA's Marketing in the era of Accountability, which suggests that we never really know who our customers are going to be so fishing in a big pool is a great idea. Plus there are many influencers of the final purchaser/user. And finally the Mercedes point which is that brands need to live in a shared culture.

    4) In the end advertisers use TV because it sells products. Excessive attention to exposure metrics can divert attention from the only data that matter which are about effectiveness. TV advertisers broadly know that TV works rather than precisely knowing that a medium hasn't.

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