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Context is king when it comes to TV and YouTube

By Steve Weaver, ThinkTV
Published Mumbrella

When ThinkTV’s Steve Weaver discovered some surprising YouTube summer viewing figures, he decided to investigate how they really stacked up against television.

As the festive season approaches, my time spent cooking healthy meals in the kitchen gets substituted for Deliveroo and Uber Eats. In fact, my online dinner intake increases by a whopping 50 per cent.

Now, a 50 per cent increase seems pretty big but it’s also an example of what we at ThinkTV call a “numberwang” – a statistic you can bandy around that sounds impressive but, with a bit of context, is less so.

The media and marketing industry is more guilty of this than most, and last week I saw a classic example in an email which pointed out that TV viewing was seasonally lower during the summer, as YouTube ratings comparatively increased. The email called on marketers to “leverage YouTube’s reach” and stated watch-time on the online-only video platform “grows more than 35 per cent during the summer months”.

Anyone reading the email may have been left with the impression YouTube’s summer viewing actually surpasses TV’s. It’s a classic numberwang because without context, the figures provided don’t give a full picture. So “35 per cent” could be 35 per cent of a lot, or 35 per cent of not very much. My seemingly huge 50 per cent increase in online dinner orders, for instance, was in fact an increase of just one extra order per week (three meals then, rather than two).

So to find some context, I had a dig around in the IAB and OzTAM stats, to establish how that 35 per cent really stacks up against TV. It turns out in the last full month’s data for both platforms (September), Australians’ TV consumption was 4x that of YouTube. That bears repeating: four times.

This sort of clarification matters because if we shift dollars away from TV to YouTube, we would be moving away from a platform that has larger opportunity to connect with potential buyers.

This chart shows the context of TV and YouTube video consumption. Looking at all the consumption across both platforms for the month of September 2018, TV viewing accounted for 82%.

At ThinkTV, we have been single-minded in highlighting television’s effectiveness, particularly in its ability to reach a mass audience. TV can generate short and long-term brand memories that allow products or services to be front and centre at point of purchase. But we have also been at pains to do this in a manner that allows marketers to make informed decisions on their media mix. Television is a powerful element of that combination, but today it’s just one component. Yet when TV is included, ‘all boats rise on the tide’.

Reach is good, but it’s not the only game in town. Reach on a platform that multiplies both an ad’s impact and the retention of branded memories magnifies the effectiveness of the platform. So how do you get yourself some of that magnified brand growth?

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Here’s a short summary from the experts:

1. Reach
Les Binet is one the “Godfathers of Advertising Effectiveness” and co-author of essential publications such as The Long and The Short of It. As Binet puts it: “The most effective marketing strategies talk to everybody. Marketing is a numbers game.”

Professor Byron Sharp of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has proven again and again that unless you reach lots of people – both buyers and non-buyers – with your messaging enough times you limit our opportunity to grow.

2. Effectiveness
Professor Karen Nelson-Field, who has much to say about the effectiveness of TV versus YouTube, has shown ads in a TV content feed have 2.7x the sales impact of ads shown on YouTube. Why? TV is 100 per cent viewable, plays full screen and there’s no scrolling.

3. Mental availability
Professor Nelson-Field also found promotion on YouTube decays three times faster in memory than TV advertising. So, not only does television advertising generate a greater sales impact in the short term, it sustains this sales effect by remaining in consumers’ memories for longer. So, by all means, use online-only platforms such as YouTube – but use it with TV so both platforms can have a multiplier effect.

Don’t make the mistake of investing in online-only platforms at the expense of the platform that is your engine room for reach, effectiveness and memory retention – and ultimately the one that will do the most to grow your brand this summer. Consider your media mix based on academic research provided by globally renowned experts in the field – and keep a close eye out for any more festive numberwangs.

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