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The power of cake: Content is making TV tastier than ever

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From unpredictable reality shows to unmissable drama, TV programming is stronger and more captivating than ever, and there’s no better example than The Great British Bake Off (GBBO).

Even after its controversial £75m move to Channel 4 (C4) last year, the show is still proving irresistible to viewers. But high-profile, scheduled programmes like this aren’t just alluring to those in front of the screen – they hold substantial appeal for the advertisers behind it, too.

The variety of shows provide increasing opportunities to target large, consistent audiences – GBBO 2017, for example, pulled in 8.9 million viewers weekly over a 10-week season. Meanwhile, the spread of programming over different channels, and their varying inventory price points, offer brands even further scope to get involved.

So what opportunities has this rise in popular programming served up for TV advertisers?

Have your cake and eat it...

These popular shows are TV’s bread and butter – drawing audiences en masse at guaranteed time slots each week. The Voice UK attracts 5.2 million viewers (up from 4.9 million in 2017), Love Island averaged 2.7 million, rising to 3.6 million viewers for the season four finale, and last year’s Game of Thrones season seven finale drew in 12.1 million viewers via linear TV alone – 16.5 million when including streaming activity. So, in a world where second screening is on the rise – three quarters of Brits use their phone while watching TV – the "traditional” platform’s reach doesn't stop there.

Viewers interact both online and offline, allowing TV to act as the performance marketing channel it is today. New sponsorship options, titled “super spots”, fuelled a 40% increase in brand awareness for 2017 GBBO co-sponsor Dr Oetker, while online searches for sponsor Lyle’s Golden Syrup increased 46% during the series' run. Thanks to its evolution, not only does TV still deliver on scale, but the new available ad formats mirror the evolution of the viewer – who has shifted to favour a cross-platform media experience. In fact, TV’s symbiotic relationship with digital allows brands to target and engage with demographics that might otherwise have been hard for them to previously reach.

Not a “soggy bottom” in sight

Aside from the regular TV advertising slots viewers are used to, broadcasters have created flagship sponsorship opportunities around their most popular shows – and their appeal is reflected in the price that advertisers are willing to pay for them. Amazon reportedly splashed out £4m to secure the brand as this year’s main sponsor of GBBO with its Echo-based creative and it looks to be paying off already. Data collected during the inaugural episode of GBBO 2018 shows significant spikes in online searches for the company’s Echo device during the first and second ad breaks, as well as at the end of the show. It’s not just this online giant that’s forking out for sponsorship either – Just Eat spent a huge £30m to sponsor the X Factor during 2017 and 2018.

Consumers watching these shows don’t want their viewing experience to be disrupted or ruined by boring or irrelevant ads – so sponsorships provide advertisers with the opportunity to get creative. Think of eBay’s Fill your cart with colour campaign. The online retailer discovered the power of second screening in conjunction with large shows and took the opportunity to focus on baking kits during the 2017 GBBO premiere. And it worked; eBay saw a 67% rise in searches for baking products while the show was on air, rising to 133% during the hour immediately after.

When it comes to these high-profile, scheduled viewing opportunities it’s big creatives that win big.

As more advertisers are utilising these opportunities to launch new campaigns and brand messages, any run of the mill creatives look and, perhaps most importantly, perform poorly in comparison.

If a big budget creative for a sponsorship slot is not an option – not all brands are in a position to splash the big bucks – advertisers can also benefit from the increasing opportunities arising as broadcasters look to incorporate shorter, more frequent ad breaks. Indeed, GBBO features the most ad breaks during a C4 show. This not only results in more affordable slots for advertisers, but increases scope for innovative, bite-size ad formats such as the six-second ad, most famously debuted by Fox Networks in 2017.

“On your marks, get set… BAKE!”

TV’s ability to create cult programming has existed for years, allowing this traditional medium to hold its own in an increasingly digital world. But this hasn’t caused TV to sit on its laurels: the development of +1 channels has seen more people watch programmes on linear TV; while digital video options, such as ITV’s simulcast via its Hub service, allows digital streaming of linear TV. The number of channels and viewing platforms has also increased dramatically over the past few years – providing more opportunities for advertisers – and there’s no reason this has to stagnate in the future. It’s a misconception that digital competes with linear TV. In reality, broadcasters have found a way to utilise digital to complement, rather than steal eyeballs from the traditional format.

As more people view TV on digital platforms – such as phones and tablets – advertisers have greater scope for creativity and engagement opportunities. In fact, John Lewis launched its rebrand with a 150-second Bohemian Rhapsody clip that led viewers to social media where the strength of the ad was discussed against previous Christmas campaigns. The social conversation even continued when the +1 version aired. So with last year’s GBBO attracting over 941,000 mentions on Twitter alone, this is a genius move by John Lewis to capitalise on digital activity.

TV is far from losing its appeal when it comes to advertising and can now measure and optimise campaigns to drive both online and offline response activity. While only time will reveal the full viewing figures from this year’s GBBO, we can be certain that TV marketers will be keen for a slice.

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