LONDON: Direct response TV (DRTV) advertisers should consider moving more of their budgets to later dayparts in order to take advantage of typical TV-watching habits, a leading industry figure has said.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, Jane Christian, head of business science at MediaCom UK, outlines an alternative strategy to the one that has developed over the past 25 years and which depends on the low cost of airtime outside peak periods to "carpet-bomb" daytime TV and sustain high levels of frequency.

But, says Christian, how consumers respond to TV ads has changed significantly in recent years, thanks to the smartphones and tablets that now typically accompany viewing. "It takes seconds to Google something. We take this for granted, but it's only been five or so years since this has become the norm."

Since DRTV ads by design are easy to understand, full of information and suggest a way of responding, it is little surprise that consumers get the message quickly and respond within a couple of exposures.

"We typically see that 95% of the impact of an ad is achieved within a consumer being exposed to an ad twice," Christian reports, with effective ad saturation being reached after just three exposures.

Yet "DRTV advertisers plan as if almost for the opposite – hitting with high frequency a limited segment of consumers who watch TV during the daytime".

The logical course of action, she suggests, is to shift the emphasis from frequency to coverage and to expand into peak time.

And, even when taking into consideration the extra costs that involves, she argues that "DRTV spots in peak airtime can be super-effective".

That conclusion is based on research Mediacom undertook with Thinkbox which showed that pure response is actually higher in peak than it is during some daytime periods.

Christian adds that there are certain types of peak viewing that should probably be avoided, such as dramas where viewers are immersed in following a storyline.

"Consumers are much more likely to go online and research a product in response to seeing an ad during content in which they are less engaged," she said.

The future, she suggests, could be one where airtime is traded on its effectiveness at driving response: "A truly programmatic solution for TV, with airtime traded on CPA rather than CPT."

Data sourced from Warc