The Digital Signage Insider

Digital signage advertising tips from TiVo

Published on: 0000-00-00

Since February, TiVo has been collecting viewer data and providing it to marketers via their StopWatch program, which is literally a "second-by-second analysis of viewership patterns by an anonymous, aggregated and random sample" of TiVo viewers. On Monday, they released a summary report for April and May 2007, along with some general thoughts about what the statistics imply. The long and short of it: viewers watch commercials if and when they're relevant. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody involved with in-store advertising, and if anything the TiVo data reinforces the idea that whether in-home or out-of-home, ad effectiveness is a function of both content and context. By looking at TiVo's findings in more detail, we can capture some useful tips for optimizing our digital signage campaigns.

To me, the most interesting data (as detailed in TiVo's press release) is the list of which ads people watched the most during time-shifted playback. Time-shifted refers to watching content that was recorded earlier, which means that viewers could simply fast-forward through every single ad if they wanted to. Thus, we can surmise that viewers actually wanted to watch the following ads (or at least found them worth listening to while grabbing snacks from the kitchen):
  1. Almost Golf Sporting Goods (DR)
  2. Perfect Pushup Exercise Equipment (DR)
  3. Microsoft Office Business Software
  4. Air Hogs Toys (DR)
  5. Cub Cadet Tractor
  6. Hummer Vehicles H3
  7. X Games Apparel
  8. Vizio Plasma TV
  9. Play Along Puppy in My Pocket
  10. Mutual of Omaha Disability Insurance
These were the top ten ads that people viewed as part of time-shifted programming. TiVo measured 15 broadcast and cable networks, looking at prime time as well as daytime shows. In this particular case, the list contains the ads that performed the best overall, regardless of how highly-rated the TV shows themselves were. Interestingly, if you look through the list, three of the top five commercials use an infomercial-style direct response (DR) pitch, suggesting that something about this style makes the commercials more watchable. I've seen each of these commercials, and the most memorable thing about all of them is the very simple, visual explanation of the product. One could watch each of them in fast-forward with no sound and still be able to understand exactly what the product does. At the end of each ad, there's a phone number and call to action displayed on screen (as well as in the audio track). This makes them an effective sales tool, especially if the viewer was considering a similar purchase already. While DR-style ads certainly aren't the only game in town, I think their presence at the top of the list shows that they're quite effective on viewers who watch time-shifted content -- since these viewers could easily have skipped the ad altogether.

On the other end of the content scale, movie trailers did extremely well when shown during popular TV shows. Here's a list of the top ten commercials for the month of April, as viewed during one of the top ten programs (which were all popular things like CSI, Grey's Anatomy and House):
  1. Dreamworks Disturbia Movie Trailer
  2. GMC Trucks Acadia
  3. Chase Freedom Credit Card
  4. Stouffers Corner Bistro Flatbreads
  5. Dyson Slim Vacuum Cleaner
  6. Apple Macintosh Computer
  7. Olay Body/Radiance RBN Body Wash
  8. Universal Georgia Rule Movie Trailer
  9. Sony Perfect Stranger Movie Trailer
  10. Sony Spider-Man 3 Movie Trailer
Instead of low-budget DR spots (from companies who could probably do a year's worth of advertising for the cost of one of these prime-time spots), big-budget movie ads with their flashy effects and big production values rule the roost here, occupying four of the top ten spots. What does this tell us? Well, once again, context is key. Unlike the first list we looked at -- where commercials were shown during all sorts of TV shows and during all hours of the day -- this list only includes "first-rate," prime-time content (seriously, CSI? First rate?). This content might draw an audience that has a lot in common when it comes to psychographics, demographics, and most importantly, viewing context. Plus, cheapo DR ads are going to look pretty unimpressive compared to big-budget TV, so movie trailers will simply stand up better from a visual and aesthetic standpoint.

While the content shown on most digital signage networks is about as far away from an episode of CSI as you can get, we've noticed that the two trends that TiVo found still tend to hold true. I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record, but using short, simple messages in your retail media and including a call to action with your digital signage content are the two things virtually guaranteed to improve the performance of in-store ads. Direct-response style content motivates shoppers to try out that new detergent or take a look at the improved ultra-stretch waistband on this season's men's slacks. While the content certainly needs to be visually appealing, the needs of typical merchandising and promotional spots often dictate that good product display and solid copy writing take precedence over fancy production techniques. On the other hand, when a spot's job is to improve the store environment or build up a brand's charisma, production quality should probably come first. So while you might see basic merchandising clips the next time you wander into your favorite ultra-trendy apparel store, you'll be equally likely to see so-called lifestyle shots of beautiful people doing fun things. But that's probably not going to be the case in your local supermarket, warehouse club or big-box retailer.

So once again, we see how the duality of content and context works in the advertising world. If it's not shown in the right context, even the best content is going to get a poor response. On the flip side, a simple and inexpensive ad can be powerful when it's contextually relevant. That last bit should come as good news for any digital signage network owners who are worried about the cost of keeping their screens fed with fresh, inviting content. In many situations, the amount of money you spend producing an ad doesn't matter nearly as much as the basic content of the ad. So the most important piece of advice I can offer is this: take the time to think about your product, venue and audience before you ever start shooting footage, hiring actors, or rendering out huge 3D animations. As it turns out, the "KISS" principle applies to digital signage, after all.

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