When the shelter-in-place orders first went into effect across states in the second quarter, TV advertisers understandably pulled back on budgets and strategy while the world figured out just what this meant. However, as we entered the third quarter, we saw advertisers adapt to the “new normal” and increase airings across categories.
Samba TV analyzed the number of linear ad airings throughout the second and third quarters of this unique year, uncovering some unexpected trends surrounding fluctuations in volume and reach.
Taking a closer look at the second quarter, we saw an extremely low volume of ad airings on linear, with many industries in full-on lockdown mode. Compared with Q3, daily airings in Q2 were 15% lower than average. The lowest volume of ads was seen on June 4 in the middle of a drought of sports and premiere content, with just 115,000 ads aired that day. By comparison, no day in Q3 saw less than 134,000 airings.
Despite the low number of ad airings in Q2, the average number of unique households reached by ads in Q2 was 4% higher than it was in Q3. Shortly after the shelter-in-place orders went in place across the country in the first two weeks of April, we saw approximately 3.4M more unique households reached per day by ads than the highest reaching 2-week period in Q3. Even with so few airings, the sheer number of people inside and centered around their TVs during that period drove up ad reach.
By July and August, the number of airings picked back up, as brands established a better understanding of the pandemic’s effects on consumer behavior and professional sports leagues resumed play. Each month of Q3 saw a progressively higher number of ads than the prior month, with airings up 13% in September compared to July.
Looking at quarterly changes across verticals, Travel led the pack with a 348% increase in airings compared to Q2, while Energy followed at a 106% increase. This may have been due to some states and countries opening up shelter-in-place restrictions as the pandemic’s numbers stabilized in a few areas. Verticals associated with in-store visitation - including Retail Stores and Restaurants - saw more moderate increases of about 22%-34%. Surprisingly, the two biggest drops in ad airings between Q2 and Q3 were within the Pets and Politics categories, each at 9% decreases.
Digging into what travel advertisers increased their airings in Q3, several Australian and U.K. travel brands led the pack with the largest increases between Q2 and Q3. In fact, the number one advertiser increase was seen from Ingenia Holidays (+158,500%), with other Australian brands like TripADeal (+10,350%), 10 Travlr (+5,507%), Australian Reptile Park (+5,900%), Visit Tenterfield (+3,200%), Northern Territory (+3,133%), and Ayers Rock Resort (+1,894%) also in the top 15. Travel advertisers based out of the U.K. that saw the biggest increases between Q2 and Q3 were Jet2holidays (+89,100%) and Macdonalds Hotels and Resorts (+19,300%). While stateside, the largest Q2 to Q3 increases were seen in travel brands like Trivago (+32,442%), Central Coast (+7,636%), Great Wolf Lodge (+4,891%), and Visit Utah (+3,031%).
The category with the most ads by volume was Entertainment, which includes movies, sports, TV shows, lottery, and other subcategories. Entertainment averaged 42k daily airings in Q3, while the second most commonly airing ad category, Food & Beverage, averaged only 19k airings.
The difference in ad airings between Entertainment and Food & Beverage was 56%, while the difference in average daily unique reach across the verticals was much less dramatic, at only 6%. Even though Entertainment aired many more ads than Food & Beverage, a similar amount of unique households were exposed to those ads, indicating that Entertainment ads were repeatedly hitting the same households, while Food & Beverage ads effectively spread unique reach.
This year has seen some drastic shifts as advertisers approach this new environment of continued shelter-in-place, changing their creatives and strategy to fit our new normal. As the country braces itself for another spike in COVID cases and a potential round of shut-downs ahead of the holiday shopping and travel season, Samba TV will continue to watch this space to see how advertisers continue to navigate these unprecedented times.