British Airways and Tesco have produced two of the UK’s best performing TV ad campaigns of the year to date. 4C Insight’s Aaron Goldman explains why.

British Airways doesn’t miss a trick these days. That includes its latest TV advertisement, which plays on the latest addition to the royal family with a tongue-in-cheek campaign focused on the delivery of a new airplane and being “the expert in domestic arrivals”.

Assessing the top UK TV ads in the first quarter of 2019, BA may not feature in the top 10 in terms of minutes aired, but it does occupy fourth position in social lift with a 105.7% increase. This means that while the brand ran fewer TV ads, the engagement lift across social media that BA enjoyed was proportionately superior.

Notably, a similar feat was accomplished by Tesco, which again didn’t make the top 10 list by ad spots, but enjoyed a TV social lift of 124%, putting the grocer at second overall in the TV social lift table for the quarter.

To compile these rankings, 4C uses TV ad occurrences monitored by Teletrax combined with data from Facebook and Twitter comprising the total number of mentions, retweets, post likes, and comments on official brand Facebook pages and Twitter handles during the two minutes following a TV broadcast.

Rank Advertiser Ad Minutes Number of TV Spots
1 Compare The Market 6,311 14,990
2 BT 5,960 10,914
3 Direct Line 5,177 10,355
4 SunLife 4,857 7,527
5 McDonald’s 3,911 8,159
6 Oral-B 3,761 7,567
7 Kayak 3,736 20,776
8 Legal & General 3,628 5,182
9 We Buy Any Car 3,471 9,644
10 Aviva 3,187 6,451

Overall TV ad ranking for Q1 2019, displaying the number of ad minutes advertisers totalled on air and the number of ad spot placements this represents.

Rank Advertiser TV Social Lift Impact Number of TV Spots
1 EE 152.6% 3,114
2 Tesco 124.0% 4,861
3 BT 123.7% 24,906
4 British Airways 105.7% 3,740
5 Vodafone 102.9% 3,115
6 Currys PC World 99.0% 2,907
7 O2 96.0% 5,735
8 British Gas 91.9% 3,468
9 Morrisons 83.6% 5,435
10 Argos 79.5% 2,119

TV social lift ranking for Q1 2019, displaying the total number of mentions, retweets, post likes, and comments on official brand Facebook pages and Twitter handles during the two minutes following the airing of a TV advert.

The success of these brands is in large part due to their heritage. In fact, both BA and Tesco have recently launched campaigns celebrating 100 years in operation in the UK, serving customers their groceries and getting them where they need to be around the world.

Of course, a centenary isn’t something most brands are in a position to celebrate in their next campaign. However, there are some key learnings from the success BA and Tesco have enjoyed that are applicable to any and all campaigns looking to use TV effectively.

Know what your audience cares about

Centring an entire campaign on your own brand birthday could certainly be seen as a risky approach. Ideally it positions the brand as self-aware, proud of its enduring relationship with consumers, and devoted to serving their needs. Equally, it can appear self-serving.

Whether it’s milestone-related or not, brands should build bridges based on what audiences care about. For example, EE topped the TV social lift ranking for Q1 with a 152.6% lift. While the mobile network’s ad followed a familiar format, employing celebrity influencer Kevin Bacon, this one succeeded by touting five consecutive years as The UK’s Best Network by RootMetrics. Moreover, the ad is perfectly placed to capitalise on the brand’s continued achievements in this arena, having just been named best network for mobile coverage by Opensignal.

These campaigns demonstrate the value in uncovering audience insights beyond that which can be extracted from primary research and focus groups. For example, the TV programmes people watch and celebrities they interact with on social media can be very instructive in developing personas.

Take the latest campaign by O2. ‘Breath It All In’ is an astrological adventure, exploring the creation of the Earth. For many brands this would represent a leftfield choice of subject matter. However, in O2’s instance, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or ‘STEM’) is one of the most important value areas for the brand’s audience as identified by our Brand Compass tool, helping it to achieve a 96% TV social lift.

Mining this data can ensure you align a campaign with your audience’s preferences and that it resonates with those you’re trying to reach.

Create surround sound

Consumers don’t interact with media in a vacuum. TV and digital media have become inextricably linked. Take the phenomenon of second-screening that I’m sure we’ve all experienced first-hand in our living rooms, with attention pinging back and forth between devices. Data collected at the same time the ads air allows brands to mimic consumer behaviour, informing broadcast buys and vice versa.

So how are brands looking to make the most of air time on broadcast channels? Looking at Tesco’s recent centenary celebrations, the campaign brought back retro British characters Morph and Mr Motivator across TV, print, radio, social, digital, while also appearing on billboards, bus stops and in newspapers across the UK.

It’s about creating a surround sound. The campaign also went beyond simply advertising to offer Clubcard customers additional deals. Products from Tesco discount chain Jack’s also appeared in 851 stores for the first time, bringing the campaign all the way through to in-store experience. In this way, Tesco builds a connection that resonates across channels and audiences, and that ultimately engages everyone with something they care about.

Tell stories

Ads like BA’s prove the point that TV media is measurable by emotional impact. The airline’s hundredth anniversary advert took us step-by-step through the things that make us British with an all-star cast including Olivia Coleman, Gary Oldman, Anthony Joshua and Riz Ahmed.

While the ad only aired in February, quick entry into the top 10 by TV social lift may well be a reflection of the bump the campaign received after Olivia Colman’s Academy Award win. The actress signs off the ad referencing ‘rather a lot of tea’ as an essential accoutrement to being British.

By taking us on a journey through the creation of a nationality we relate to personally, the ad generated a social lift of over 100%. But you didn’t need our data to tell you that. You felt the lift in your spirit the minute the ad was over. It played out similarly with John Lewis’ Christmas spot featuring Elton John, which topped the charts for 4C’s Christmas Social Lift Rankings at 135% increase.

Don’t let anyone mark their own homework

Month after month, year after year, we see brands investing millions into their TV efforts only to fall on deaf ears. As brands invest in cross-channel video strategies to reach their audiences with the most engaging content across touchpoints, a measurement strategy that takes all channels into account is vital.

In a modern media world, figures like social lift represent a more holistic view of advertising’s net effect than just counting views or viewers. If an ad really did tell a story and successfully engaged audiences around something they truly care about, then they’re going to talk about it.

Ultimately, TV is a medium that still offers so much potential, but we’re approaching a watershed moment. As the ads we encounter online become more intuitive and drive higher performance, attention is turning to how broadcasts can achieve the same levels of engagement.

Second-screening is a vital intermediary, enabling the personalisation of the campaigns being viewed on TV and also offering up far better metrics via digital channels. But our destination remains rooted in the advancement of television to a point where the distinctions between broadcast and digital cease.

Winning traction with advanced TV campaigns hinges on understanding the new opportunities available with targeting and measurement, but brands also must adhere to the same rules of originality, authenticity and personalisation that have always been the hallmark of good advertising.