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A little (TV) advertising goes a long way

David Grainger
David Grainger (former) Head of Strategy

I’ve recently been judging this year’s Thinkbox awards. The winning campaigns will be announced in late June but, before I betray a confidence, please know that Tess Alps has already bought my silence with nothing more than a pack of Fruitella.

What I can reveal is that every year, the most interesting case studies are never the usual suspects. Instead, they’re the ones you haven’t necessarily seen before; the small brands that have been brought to screen on a shoestring.

There’s a crucial lesson for media planners in these low-budget case studies. Agencies and clients have long held a mental budgetary-threshold below which they should not, or cannot invest on TV.

It’s true that not all brands should be a TV advertiser, but we shouldn’t be surprised when TV works on small budgets.

Our natural inclination is to spend small budgets in more targeted media, building greater frequency among a more tightly defined target audience.

In a mass media, like TV, the same small budget can feel stretched; but there’s an upside to this dissipation. Namely, that an advertiser can reach fresh, new people without wasting money repeating the message to those who’ve already either bought into the brand, or already rejected it.

The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute back up this argument: “The most memory refreshing dollar spent on advertising is your first. Decay in returns start immediately unless the 2nd dollar hits purely new people. And in the modern media environment the amount of pure additional reach you can get decays rapidly”

For small advertisers on TV, the second, third and even fourth ad dollar still provides plenty of incremental reach.

Allocating media budgets takes insight and skill, but it also requires us to suspend lore and anecdote, and think carefully about what is the most effective use of our clients’ budgets.