During the first coronavirus lockdown, the consumption of television and online streaming content soared.
According to Ofcom’s Media Nations 2020 report, published in August, people in the UK spent 40% of their day on average watching TV and online video content during the month of April – a year-on-year rise of almost a third. The average UK adult reportedly spent 178 minutes per day, or close to three hours, watching live television during that period.
For advertisers putting out their message on these channels, there was an opportunity to reach and make an impression on a vastly increased audience. And while many companies were pulling back from spending any ad budget at all, some brands and agencies took advantage of the reduced rates available to them – and saw a strong response from TV campaigns.
It was a particularly golden opportunity for two scale-up digital brands, Farmdrop and Olio: one, an online grocer focused on sourcing sustainable, high-quality groceries; the other, an app that allows people to donate and receive unwanted food and other items. I spoke to Josh Clarricoats, Managing Partner at advertising agency Hell Yeah, which created two direct response TV ads for the two brands, about why TV can be an effective advertising channel for digital-based services and how it can work hand-in-hand with digital advertising activity like online video and display ads.
Digital brands and direct response TV ads
“Hell Yeah works with a lot of startup and scaleup brands,” Clarricoats says. “They’ve usually taken a couple of rounds of funding, and they may have run some internal digital campaigns – paid social, programmatic displays ads – but they haven’t really explored the realms of ‘proper’ creativity and strategy.
“Farmdrop and Olio were both interested in exploring TV to see if it would work for them – they’d very much utilised digital channels up to that point. And after the initial months of lockdown, as things started to open back up a bit, there were some very beneficial TV rates on offer for brands because so many businesses had cut all TV advertising, which made the rates super cheap – they were roughly half the price they’d been before. At the same time, a lot more people were watching TV.
“Although both brands very much wanted to drive people to the website to sign up and become customers, and you want to have a really strong call-to-action that will achieve that, most TV ads – particularly direct response TV ads – have the job of building the brand as well, particularly if it’s a brand that’s never been on TV,” explains Clarricoats.
“People usually aren’t going to go straight to the website and do a food shop, or download an app – but if you get that messaging across, then maybe a week later, they’ll think to sign up and give the service a go. You need to invest in the creativity so that it’s memorable.”
This is the beauty of television compared to other forms of advertising, according to Clarricoats: it is very effective at eliciting an emotional response. Thinkbox and Ipsos Connect’s 2016 ‘TV Nation’ report found that 58% of people believe that TV advertising “Makes you feel emotional”, while 64% said it “Sticks in the memory”. For this reason, it can be a useful tool for smaller brands that want to make an impact, particularly when used in concert with a well-planned digital campaign.
“We don’t just specialise in television, but I think it’s a really good platform for digital-based services to test,” says Clarricoats. “You can target a lot of people – a lot of people still watch television, which I think people forget – and it’s a good way to supplement your digital activity and create a full-reaching campaign that people will see both online and on TV.
“It’s also a lot more cost-effective than people realise. A lot of scale-up brands believe that TV must cost an arm and a leg, but worldwide, the UK has some of the cheapest TV advertising rates.”
Cutting through the silence during lockdown
For both FarmDrop and Olio, Hell Yeah worked to create ads that would elicit an emotional response from people, while also being versatile enough to be used across different channels – giving multiple pieces of creative for the price of one.
“With FarmDrop, we tried to make a very memorable TV ad that also built the brand. It was very much a TV-first campaign, but they also used cuts of the ad on YouTube and as digital display ads. The response has been amazing – for a 30-second paid ad on YouTube, 27% of people were watching it through to the end.
“I think this shows how a good strong idea can transfer to social as well – as long as that’s within your mind when you’re making the creative for it.”
The 30-second Farmdrop YouTube ad, which aimed at capturing how ordering food through the app made people feel. More than a quarter (27%) of people who viewed the ad watched it to the end.
Overall, Farmdrop’s television ad campaign drove 30,000 website sessions attributed to TV, with more than 2,000 attributed incremental sales, according to data from measurement platform TVSquared. Year-on-year web traffic for August, when the ad aired, was up 122%, and Farmdrop also saw a 66% month-on-month increase in branded search.
For Olio, Hell Yeah set out to create a “hard-working” direct response TV ad that would get the most out of the “shoestring budget” that the brand was working with. “They wanted to create a hard-working animation that would encourage people to download the app and reconsider throwing things away,” says Clarricoats.
“Again, it transferred very well to digital channels, and they can now use it for any kind of moving image or audio assets.”
Did both brands make a deliberate decision to advertise during a time when many businesses were drastically slashing their ad budgets and pulling back from advertising – allowing those who did invest in marketing and advertising to take a bigger share of voice? During the lockdown, Clarricoats recalls, businesses pulled back from advertising for two reasons: some were struggling and didn’t have a product they could feasibly market, but other businesses that were doing unexpectedly well during Covid-19 “fell into the trap” of thinking they didn’t need to advertise, because they were already seeing a huge uplift.
“Farmdrop, to a degree, did that – they initially switched off all their digital channels, because people were coming to them anyway – but then they realised they were still missing out on vast swathes of customers who might not have heard of them. That’s when they decided to switch advertising back on and run a campaign across digital, TV and out of home – to keep that brand awareness up.”
Clarricoats anticipates that the trend of using digital services and apps – particularly for grocery shopping – will continue long-term. “That whole mindset and the way that people do their shopping has completely changed, and that’s not going to drop down any time soon. In general, people are a lot more receptive to using digital and delivery services than they were before.”
Making TV and digital work together
Different advertising channels have different strengths, and though television is effective at delivering an emotional impact, it can be difficult to attribute, especially when compared to the precision of tracking clicks on digital. “With digital, you can see that someone’s clicked, and that they’ve bought something. With TV, it’s a bit more guesswork.”
Thanks to dual-screening habits, there is a percentage of consumers – Clarricoats estimates around a third – who will act on an advertising message directly if it piques their interest. But for the majority of consumers, the effectiveness of a campaign relies on its memorability. This is where digital advertising can come in.
“We’re not an agency that says, ‘you should just do TV’,” says Clarricoats. “[A television ad spot] does need to be supplemented with good, captivating digital content that matches up to the TV campaign, so that it all works together as one creative suite of assets to drive that memorability.” Digital is still a very cost-effective method for driving customers to a website, he adds. By taking an “all-encompassing” approach to ad strategy, brands – especially growing scaleup brands – can get the most out of what may be a relatively small media budget.
Another key thing to remember for disruptive brands that want to make an impact with their advertising is that it isn’t enough to claim you’re a challenger brand, says Clarricoats – your ad creativity and ideas need to reflect that disruptiveness. “You need to come up with ideas that are going to break through the noise, perhaps get more organic coverage – think about what’s going to get people to sit up and take notice.
“TV ad spots can be quite similar to one another; we encourage our clients to think of something that’s not sterile, and gets people to notice what you’re doing. You need to explore what’s important to consumers and connects with them on an emotional level, rather than just pushing a product.”