TV Ad Campaigns Fail to Reach Audiences

Originally Posted on Financial Times

Nationwide US television advertising campaigns are failing to reach a large portion of their target audiences, according to new research based on TV viewing data.

Using figures from Nielsen and Kantar Media, ad targeting company Simulmedia has found that in many cases as many as three-quarters of marketers’ TV ad impressions are viewed by just 20 per cent of their target audiences.

According to its report, Unilever’s $6.3m TV ad campaign for its Axe body spray was not seen by 60 per cent of the 18 to 24-year-olds it was intended to reach in March this year.

Similarly, Progressive Insurance spent $31.9m on television ads in June, but a fifth of all adults older than 20 did not watch any of its TV ads that month. Similar patterns were observed during ad campaigns run by several of the largest advertisers in the US.

In spite of the fragmentation of audiences across new media, TV ad spending remains the bulk of many companies marketing budgets.

US advertisers are expected to allocate 42.2 per cent of their total spending $64bn to TV ads this year, an increase on the 39 per cent share five years ago, according to WPP’s GroupM.

But the new research provides further evidence of the long-suspected shortcomings of TV as a medium for reaching broad audiences which is likely to have ramifications for budget allocations across the media business.

“When you are sitting fat and happy, there is not a lot of impetus to make a change,” said David Cohen, global chief media officer at Interpublic’s Universal McCann, whose clients include Coca-Cola, MasterCard, Sony and Microsoft.

“But I am fairly certain that whether we like it or not, the horse is out of the stable.”

Wenda Millard, president at consultancy MediaLink, which works with advertising companies and marketers, including Simulmedia, said: “TV advertising always has been spray and pray. Because we couldn’t do anything about it, we used to laugh.

“Now that joke is long over. It’s not funny to waste billions and billions of dollars.”

Unilever did not respond to requests for comment, and Progressive declined to comment.

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