The Surprising Impact of Buying Attention Vs. Audiences

Bud Light puts its ad in context to capture audience attention

Right person, right place, right time - we need these three things to align to get the attention of potential customers. But when advertisers buy TV audiences today in the traditional way we only focus on the first part of the equation - the right person. Buying TV ads based on demographics alone is a mistake and a missed opportunity.

To make an impact with the right person brands need to get their attention at the right time and in the right place. How do we find the “right time and place” for our advertisements? The missing link is context. Program content defines the right place and time for your advertisement.

In this data driven world, the key to effective ad spend is to purchase the optimal audience, and to show them content that they really care about. When you run ads that are contextually relevant to the surrounding program content, you get more eyeballs on your ad, and therefore better return on your spend.

Consider this ad featuring Hispanic actor Michael Pena of the “Bud Light Party.” It shows Pena in a series of vignettes, including him throwing out the first pitch (actually a can of Bud Light) at Dodger Stadium, a fisherman “catching” a net full of Bud Light, and audience members delighting in the six-packs of Bud Light under their seats on a TV talk show, Oprah-style. These scenes are interspersed with shots of a Bud Light motorcade crossing Hoover Dam and a train with a Bud Light logo chugging through a snowy landscape.

That ad ran across multiple programs that varied widely in content, and TVision Insights analyzed how effectively the ad captured attention during each program. While some categories made intuitive sense – auto racing and hockey, for example – one category in particular stood out: reality TV.

The audiences of the following reality shows paid high levels of eyes-on-screen attention to the ad:

  • Wicked Tuna, a Nat Geo show that is set on a fishing boat, not unlike the one in the ad.
  • Love and Hip-Hop (VH1), Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo), and Real Housewives of New York City (Bravo). These are three of the top programs for minority audiences in the U.S., an audience that identifies with Pena.
  • Unique Rides, a program about unique cars that airs on Discovery’s Velocity channel. The viewers of this audience are automobile enthusiasts and sports fans.

The viewers of these shows paid greater attention to the ad because the creative was relevant to the context of the program they were watching. And because they paid attention, the ads had an impact. The implications are clear for brands interested in creating more effective ads - context matters.

Conventional TV advertising is still bought for, and delivers, mass exposure. Brands will continue to be enticed by ratings bonanzas and special tent-pole events like the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. But media plans will not succeed on mass generic audience reach alone. Brands will see greater return on their advertising dollars by creating smart advertising content and placing it within contextually relevant programming.

As Bud Light’s efforts on Wicked Tuna and other programming shows us, finding the right person, at the right place and time means considering the context of the program content in which the ad airs. For advertisers that will mean more variety of ads for sure, but also greater impact.

The author is Dan Schiffman, CRO and cofounder of TVision Insights, an attention measurement company. You can reach him at hello@tvisioninsights.com, or on twitter @TVisionInsights @DanSchiff.