Who Watches TV Ads In The UK? No One – But They All Remember Them

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Alright, so the title on this one is a bit misleading, but taking a precursory look at some recent researchpublished by Deloitte on behalf of the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, which takes place 27-29 August 2010, would lead one to draw that conclusion. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

The initial conclusion drawn by the title of this article is due to the fact that 86% of people who are watching timeshifted content are skipping the ads. However, the research I had available didn’t mention the percentage of TV viewers that watch timeshifted shows. In actuality, 13% of all TV viewers in the research said they always or almost always watch the commercial breaks, another 11% said never and 2% shun all television with advertisements. That last statistic means what? They only watch C-SPAN?

Length of the inline ad breaks seems to play a factor as well. Why people watched the ads broke down like this in top three reasons:

  1. Shorter breaks – 48%
  2. Memorable ads – 32%
  3. Shorter Ads – 17%

Themed breaks where all the ads were in one industry like travel, cars or food weren’t all that popular. Nor were personalized ads, the prior being important for only 8% and the latter only 14%

And yet… television was the most memorable type of advertising in 2010 and had the greatest impact they say. Amazing when only 13% are always watching the ads and 13% aren’t watching them at all.

James Bates, media partner said: “The UK’s appreciation of television advertising appears to remain robust. It is now regarded as a top three advertising format by 56 percent of respondents, compared to 64 percent in 2009 – it still leads by a long way. Television was way ahead of newspapers (30 percent) and magazines (17 percent). In contrast, banner adverts polled poorly in both years (4 percent) and a new option for 2010, online video adverts, also underwhelmed (3 percent).”

TV adverts most widely remembered

When respondents were asked to think of the advertising campaign they considered to be most memorable in 2010, 52 percent ranked television highest followed by 10 percent for newspapers. This compared to just 1 percent for banner adverts, 1 percent for iPhone or iPad adverts and 2 percent for online video adverts.

Relevance of the traditional television advert

Just over a third (36 percent) said they were most likely to pay attention to the traditional, 30 second advert, compared to 1 percent for a video advert before an online video clip or as part of the web site.

Online video formats were particularly poorly rated – only 3 percent of respondents were most likely to pay attention to a pre-roll advert. Less than one percent of respondents cited a video advert shown on a mobile phone, or an advert played in the middle of an online video as the format they were most likely to pay attention to.

The Rub

Let’s face it, this was really a set of research on TV ads, made for a TV conference. It’s entirely possible that the questions for the online video ads were worded in such a way that they might have led to some skewing of the numbers. I’m not making any accusations or stating this is what happened, but it can often creep unknowingly into everything if not done with great care.

It’s also entirely possible that there was a pre-screening process that gathered up respondents based on a certain level of television viewing and disregarded those that did not meet the criteria which would further work to move the numbers towards a more positive light for TV.

Then again, it could just boil down to the fact that the Brits don’t like or watch as much online video in comparison to their television viewing habits. I remember some research a while back that stated Brits watch more TV per week than any other country in the world. Perhaps they just haven’t caught on to online video like the Americans have. Then again, there was just a reported 37% increase in online video watching over there. But the total videos watched in Februaray in the UK was only 5.5 Billion though there are only about 65 Million or so in the country and in July 2009 the online video viewership was around 22 Million so we might guess they’re around 25-30 Million viewers. So it begs the question – how many of the respondents for this television research, are also equally heavy online video viewers?

The Method

Statistics outlined in this press release are taken from a survey conducted by YouGov, based on a question set written by Deloitte, amongst 4,199 UK adults (aged 18 years plus). The sample of 4,199 respondents was split at the beginning of the survey in order that half completed the first module of questions and half completed the second. This was implemented to ensure quality of response throughout the entire questionnaire.

Fieldwork was conducted between 9th and 12th July 2010. The survey was conducted using an online interview, amongst members of the YouGov panel of individuals who have consented to take part in surveys. Respondents were sampled/weighted to reflect the UK population, based on the following criteria: age, gender, social grade, region and newspaper readership. Population figures used for sampling/weighting were sourced from the Office for National Statistics and National Readership Survey data.


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