Four Reasons Your TV Advertising Might Be Underperforming

Let’s say your creative department just delivered the best 30 second spot you’ve ever seen. It’s marketing gold. Everyone is certain that sales are going to take off. The holiday party committee has visions of sushi stations dancing in their heads.

Then the ad hits the air and it does… just okay. Maybe there was a small bump in sales, but on the whole, it performed about the same as the campaign before that, and the one before that.

So what happened? If your company buys TV advertising the way it always has, and if it depends on media metrics for analysis rather than actual business outcomes, you’re often left only with your best guess.

Simulmedia is in the business of taking the guesswork out of TV advertising, so we get a lot of companies asking us why their campaigns are underperforming. Here are four of the most common issues we see.

1. They Don’t Reach Enough of the Right People

This may seem obvious, but the success of a campaign hinges on its ability to reach the right target audience—people who are receptive to its message. Last December a large financial services company ran a month-long, contextual campaign aimed at non-white adults 25 – 54. Millions of dollars later, the results showed they’d reached less than half of their target. Unless you’re hitting a baseball, that leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Key to consider: Is your media buy faithful to your plan? Concerns about CPMs can sometimes lead to changes that limit target-audience reach.

2. They Reach Too Many of the Wrong People

The flip-side of, course, is that if you’re not reaching the right people, you’re wasting money delivering your message to people who likely don’t care all that much. The campaign referenced above reached 156M people. That’s a lot, but unfortunately, a whopping 85% of them were outside the target audience. Sticking with the baseball analogy here, the financial services company threw a pitch that was waaaay outside.

Key to consider: Are you targeting standard age/gender demos? If so, you may want to get more specific and target at a category level.

3. They Have Low Reach and Sky-High Frequency

You know the phrase “waste not, want not?” Grandparents usually say it when they want you to finish your dinner, but for our purposes, it’s about not throwing away your money when you’re on a tight budget. Last October a massive CPG company ran a month-long TV campaign that reached 84M adults 18-49. Of those people, 7.5 million saw the same ad over 21 times, and about 33,000 saw it over 155 times. If you’re like most marketers and believe the optimal frequency for conversion is somewhere between 6 and 10, then anything more is simply a drain on your ROI.

Key to consider: How many networks are you running on? If you’re only buying 15 or 20 deep, the chance of wasted frequency goes up significantly.

4. They Give Too Much Weight To Certain Dayparts

Most brands love to buy primetime. After all, there’s something thrilling about sitting at home with friends or family and seeing your ad on TV. But prime is expensive. Contrast that with overnight, which most brands don’t buy because “nobody’s watching.” But some people work nights, some people can’t sleep, and others just stay up late. That’s not to say you should buy all overnight, either, but there’s an audience to reach and value to be had outside of primetime. The difference in conversion rate between prime and late fringe isn’t usually all that much. But the price? That’s a different story.

Key to consider: Are your daypart weights based on opinion or data? Following the data can sometimes feel counter-intuitive, but often leads to better results.


So what’s a marketer to do when TV campaigns don’t perform? Start with a self-diagnosis. Review the execution of your media plan and consider how to reach more of your target audience. Analyze frequency to understand if you might be over-exposing portions of your audience, and lastly, ask yourself if the campaign was too dependent on primetime programming.

The good news is that all these problems are solvable. Through data-optimized advertising on linear TV you can target granular audience segments, understand who saw your ad, and then close the loop to see what action they took. With this information, you’ll be able to analyze which audience segments were the most responsive, and which networks and dayparts were most effective for driving conversions. In turn, this allows you to optimize for the future, make each campaign more efficient, and ultimately increase your ROI.

You know what happens when you’re responsible for growing your company’s ROI? Lots of good things. And sushi stations at the holiday party, too.

Simulmedia has helped some of the biggest brands grow their ROI. See the results for yourself and then contact us to see how we can help your company, too.

Interested in getting the latest from Simulmedia?

News, insights, and events sent straight to your inbox!

Want to take the guesswork out of your TV advertising?

Get in Touch