While there's some debate about how the term "Christmas in
July" originated (a movie of the same name was predated by references going
back to the late 19th century), it's been celebrated by smart
marketers since the 1950s to jumpstart second-half sales.
In a recent Gallup survey, Americans reported more average daily
spending in July than any month not beginning with the letter "D."
Back-to-school spending begins in July and represents the second largest sales
period after Christmas, according to the National Retail Federation. But back-to-school
is only partly responsible for this lift in sales.
Census data confirms that overall consumer spending in July
was above average in 2011 with increased numbers in categories such as new car
sales, food and beverage and restaurants, as well as home and garden stores.
July also holds the monthly record for domestic gross movie ticket
sales for the past ten years. It's no wonder that the expression "summer
blockbuster" is a part of the lexicon. The movie industry is naturally one of
the top television advertisers during July, but they're not alone, with
automotive, restaurants, wireless and financial services among the top five
categories in terms of spending.
Persistent myths aside, people are still watching television
in July. Nielsen's "Households Using Television" data (which calculates the
percentage of all TV households in a survey area with one or more sets in use
during a specific period) shows that the July 2011 viewership index dropped
only about 7% compared to the entire year. Upon closer inspection, however,
network primetime adult 18-49 ratings for July dropped 40% vs. May. So while TV
is still being watched in July, it's just being watched differently.
In July 2011, syndicated television delivered an incredible
60% of the top 10 highest rated shows, along with the top 25 and top 50.
Further, last year's July ratings for syndicated shows like Family Guy, Two
and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother and The Office all
significantly outperformed their network counterparts for key adult and young
adult targets. This year, with the addition of The Big Bang Theory in syndication, we've already witnessed the
same effect in June 2012.
While network primetime offers a few first-run shows each
summer, there just aren't enough of them. Last July, over 70% of the network
primetime schedule was "repeats" with ratings averaging 0.9 for adults 18-49.
Looking at the published schedules for this summer, one shouldn't expect much
of a change.
Everyone knows that cable networks recognize the advantage
of summer releases. The success of this year's Hatfields & McCoys on
History (which aired just after May sweeps) and the NBA playoffs demonstrate
that viewers still want to watch TV when the weather gets warmer and the days
Unfortunately for marketers, these shows won't be there to
support July efforts. Further, what may be lost on some is that many of the
heavily hyped shows don't necessarily attract the scale that's expected to
drive people into dealerships, announce promotions, launch products or fill
theater seats. Put into perspective, among the top telecasts in all of national
television, last July's highest-rated cable premiere ranked 140th
among adults 18-49.
So what's a marketer to do?
Some marketers adjust their selections based upon media
consumption specific to the summer months. Marketers still need immediate
reach; it just doesn't happen as quickly on network when the network prime
schedule includes mostly "encore presentations."
Many marketers employ multiplatform integrations as an
important element of delivering their communications message. For those looking
toward first-run network, the choices are limited. Syndication's entertainment
news programs remain first-run all summer long, providing advertisers with
fresh content and the ability to partner on multiplatform integrations with a
very short lead time.
This July, successful marketers can achieve high ratings,
extended reach and build in efficiencies with impactful television efforts. For
some, it may require an adjustment in vehicle selection, but for many, it
simply means reallocation within the properties they're already buying. Think
of it as a gift that can last the whole year.