How Local TV Is Driving Performance Metrics in COVID-19 Era

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As states move in and out of COVID-19 restrictions, flexibility is more important than ever for TV advertisers — and so is a sharper state-level focus.

Brands and agencies can no longer assume that what works in Illinois will translate to audiences across California and, as a result, TV ad success now depends on an up-to-date understanding of both state-level guidelines and audience response; something brands have been quick to recognize.

Leading the way in swapping to impression-based media, advertisers focused on the local TV ad space are showing that performance metrics provide clearer insight into viewing habits and fuel faster adjustment. With uncertainty set to continue into 2021, this commitment to refine measurement and optimization is one that players across the TV ecosystem should be watching closely.

Local TV Holds Its Advertising Place

The pandemic has affected everything from where we work to the financial climate. Almost every aspect of consumer behavior has shifted; including brand interaction, priority products and services, and the way we buy. But what hasn’t changed is the value of Local TV advertising.

TV ad spend initially fell as some brands and agencies “went dark” and took time out in early lockdown to evaluate the situation, but investment and results have improved at speed. Those who quickly adapted creatives to new consumer priorities and returned budgets to the TV are already seeing positive results; with joint research with Effectv finding the coronavirus-related creatives drive 37% average uplift in website visits and a lasting halo effect week-over-week. In contrast, staying off-air caused a 20% drop in searches and visits, compared to weeks when TV ads were served.

These figures show us that maintaining a strong TV presence is crucial to sustaining awareness and engagement, especially as cross-environment viewing grows; with linear consumption up nearly 30% and digital viewing rising by 40% in recent months.

But to make sure ads keep hitting the right mark, advertisers will need more than just visibility and situational messaging. Campaigns must be fueled by comprehensive insight into which blend of spots, scheduling, and ad creative fuels action among target audiences, state by state.

Viewing Takes on a Local Flavor

Lockdown has seen TV audiences significantly increase their interest in local TV viewing; in fact, between February and March, local news alone grew its share of viewing hours across major broadcasters from nearly 26% to just over 30%. A large part of this is down to varied state-level safety measures and the need for clarity, but it also reflects the growing appetite for tailored TV. In the face of uncertainty and isolation, viewers want the content to cover the specific issues, topics and information that matter to them.

It’s no surprise that TV ad dollars are also being redirected, with brands and agencies diverting their attention and budgets from network giants to local broadcast and online programming, as well as committing to spending for longer.

This spike in local TV buying is accelerating a long-overdue move away from ratings towards an impression-centric media currency. This paves the way for local to compete with the big players on advertising accountability and efficiency.

The Performance Revolution

As a leading force in the TV market, the U.S. often powers measurement and attribution developments that take the industry forward. But attention is too often fixed on established movers and shakers. Although national networks have been using impressions for a while, local has brought the most critical new element into the mix: performance.

In 2019, local broadcasters signed up for a mass switch to impression-based media, heavily focused on action. Rather than building evaluation around ratings, they wanted to offer an accurate view of effectiveness by applying performance metrics that can be dictated by an individual brand’s KPIs. One year on, that decision is paying off.

The ability to track not just who sees ads, but also what they do next is making local TV more accountable and desirable, at a time when marketing professionals and ad spend are under greater pressure than ever.

Performance metrics – providing greater cross-channel selling potential for media owners, and giving buyers the ability to rapidly identify and react to changing consumer behavior –are set to be the new local TV standard.

According to JT Batson, Founder and CEO of Hudson MX

“A double-digit percentage of local TV will be either purchased on or optimized on audience or outcomes metrics” by 2021.

COVID-19 has made agility a survival essential and that won’t change anytime soon. Whether advertisers want to optimize their TV advertising impact or audience insight, mirroring local activity is the smartest move. Brands have proven that it is possible to keep pace with the moving goal posts of local lockdown and consumer habits by prioritizing performance measurement, and not just relying on ratings. Those who want to make the most of TV’s enduring appeal need to get with the latest program and join the local-led impression-based drive.

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