April 14, 2017

by Nigel Hollis

A recent report by Thinkbox finds that TV accounted for 93.8 percent of video ads that were viewed in the UK in 2016. Now, accepting that Thinkbox’s mission is to promote commercial TV, this statistic does give pause for thought. If nothing else, the fact that so much video advertising is still seen on TV suggests that the medium is still alive and well no matter what digital promoters might tell us.

Beyond the obvious ‘not dead yet’ story the really interesting thing is the disparity between the share of time spent viewing video on TV and share of time spent viewing video ads. According to Thinkbox TV accounts for 74.8 percent of all video viewing in the UK last year but 93.8 percent of the video ads viewed. That tells me that TV in the UK is a very cluttered environment. Not only does this compromise the efficiency of an ad buy it may further drive viewers to on-demand platforms.

This is not to say that ad supported on-demand is any less cluttered than TV, but video ads are relatively rare compared to display ads and so perhaps offer a better opportunity to stand out. If so, and particularly if your target audience is younger Brits, it looks like YouTube is the place to be. The Thinkbox report finds that YouTube accounted for 15.6 percent of 16 to 24 year-olds video viewing in 2016, up from 10.3 percent in 2015.

There is little doubt that that younger people are shifting video viewing to digital platforms. Certainly the data from this year’s AdReaction: Gen X, Y, Z finds Gen Z, people aged 16 to 19 in our survey, were far less likely to claim to spend an hour or more a day of TV each day and far more likely to use a laptop and mobile device than older generations. They are also far more ad averse than older people and more likely to resort to ad-blocking, either technological or physical.

This means that marketers will face a growing challenge. The younger the target audience, the more likely they will be to view video across multiple devices: laptop, mobile and TV in that order. Marketers will have to respond by buying ads on each platform but in order to make that buy as effective as possible may need to tailor each execution to the environment in which it is to be shown, not every ad will work the same way across different channels.

Meanwhile, those advertisers that can afford to use TV will continue to enjoy the reach that TV still brings; augmented where necessary with digital platforms like YouTube. Unless, of course, we reach a tipping point where digital becomes the brand building medium of choice. But what do you think? Are we there yet? Please share your thoughts.

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