RD Fun Facts: How Station Start-Times Affect When Your Ads Will Air

RD Fun Facts: How Station Start-Times Affect When Your Ads Will Air

As a busy media-buyer I don’t think a day goes by without a thought or a mention on a topic relating to “station start-time.”  It is something so basic and engrained in the direct response media world that most of us don’t give it a second thought.   From coordinating phone rooms and listing services to explaining to clients when their ad will actually air, vs. the time/day it is booked in our system, station start-times greatly affect the behind-the-scenes logistical nuances of station programming. With 25 years of media-buying under my belt, the start-time annoyances continue on day after day.

What exactly is station start-time and why is it that stations are not universally aligned when it comes to start-times?  A station’s start-time is the time at which a station starts its new broadcast cycle for the day. While some stations start at 4am, others start at 5am, 6am or 12am.  What’s the big deal you ask?  The big deal is, if a station starts their day between 12:30am-6am, any media booked between the hours of 12:30am – 6am for a particular date, doesn’t actually run until the following day.  Make sense?  In other words, if I book a 2am airing for 12/1 with a station that has a 4am start, then the ad won’t actually run until 2am on 12/2. With hundreds of stations out there and tons of ad space I have to book, you can see how things can get tricky with figuring out when ads will actually air.

I spoke to a few seasoned veterans in this business to get their take on this topic.  We all agreed on some form of the explanation below as to why stations aren’t universally aligned when it comes to station start-times.

Once upon a time, stations did not run programming 24/7.  If you were around in the 70’s, you may have watched the color bars and listened to the single droning tone for a few minutes in anticipation of a cartoon starting at 5 am.  Those were the days when stations didn’t have enough programming or viewers to fill up a 24-hour day. Therefore, station start times varied from station to station.  As more stations popped up, the exasperating trend continued.  


Prior to 24/7 programming, it was very common to see SMPTE color bars on your TV set.  Stations have since filled their time slots around the clock, but station start-times have mostly remained unchanged.

As one of the GSMs of a broadcast station explained, “Before hubs, station groups, and being on the air 24 hours a day, we had sign-on and sign-off.  Stations all signed on at different times and that was their start time.  Stations continued to use that start time when they went to a 24-hour broadcasting day. Some stations have adjusted to match the start-time of their owned group or traffic hub, but still no standard 12am time for all.”

Nonetheless, there is something warm and fuzzy about stations continuing to use their old start times in this day and age of constant progression.  It is a nice bit of nostalgia.  One station group, Nexstar, has even brought back the National Anthem at 4am before starting their regular daily programming. I will now smile and think of the past every time I come up against a day-start issue….I hope you will too!

COVID-19: Potential Short-Term & Long-Term Effects on Advertising

COVID-19: Potential Short-Term & Long-Term Effects on Advertising

Just four weeks ago, before our world was upended by the coronavirus strain known as COVID-19, no one would have foreseen that weeks later, our healthy economy would come crashing to a grinding halt.  This happened at an unprecedented rate, and was so quick in its onset.  With most of the nation confined to our homes without outside contact, many are fearful what the future holds.  

As a media agency, we have been through crises in the past of political, social and financial natures.  We have survived some of nation’s most trying times, including 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2008. Through our experience, we have seen certain trends and are anticipating that this may play out in a “similar” fashion.  Being in the direct response and DTC industry, our benefit in the past, and as it is right now, is our ability to know “how the population is responding to our advertising.”  We can see if they are going to the websites, calling the phones and ordering the products.  We have seen in the past and are experiencing it today, that Direct to Consumer products that make things easier at home are the ones that will trend (i.e., home cooking, exercise, education, well-being, vitamins, minerals and other supplements).  People will be looking for ways to save money and feel better about themselves (home care, beauty) as they exit the “quarantine” and wait for the economics to adjust.

Due to shelter-in-home orders, viewership levels are up, but people are not necessarily responding in mass due to the economic downturn they are personally feeling or apprehensive about.  Thus, in trying times, River Direct works closely with TV stations and digital publishers to make sure that the rates being charged, are commensurate with the audience delivered and the orders being generated.  General advertisers have a tendency to pull media when a crisis of this nature occurs and thus, media rates decline. 

Many of our clients have asked us how we anticipate things playing out in the advertising/media buying world.  Due to the unchartered nature of the current crisis, there’s no way of knowing – however, we offer a few scenarios: 

Best-case Scenario: Social distancing works and the virus peters out by early May/June.   People begin to go back to work and receive paychecks, economy starts to improve.  The media will start to pick up slowly as people gain confidence.  People will pull out their wallets and order product.  The general-rate advertisers will come back into the space “slowly” (Q3) allowing direct response/DTC to take advantage of the situation from May going forward….4th quarter ends up being more aggressively pursued and election dollars go into the market as planned.

Delayed-Recovery Scenario: The virus starts to disappear between June and end of July….in direct response we are able to take advantage knowing how people are feeling and make it through third quarter and hope there are no virus rebounds and anticipate a strong 4th quarter for direct response; with General advertisers having a bit more trepidation but still engaged.  Election dollars are there and rates are reasonable.

Lengthy-Recovery Scenario: The virus is not contained, and has a resurgence in places where we thought it had gone away and doesn’t disappear until late summer.  Economy is slow in getting back to speed and trepidation continues to occur in the market place.   The summer months’ rates decline precipitously and people are not confident and don’t have extra monies to spend and are not purchasing product.  Personal financial burdens are tough and advertising in general is soft.  We always have the advantage in knowing what to pay based upon response, but the fear is people slow down their purchasing because of the economic setback.  The ad industry for 4thquarter is soft for general advertisers and those doing campaign advertising will get the ads for a very low rate due to decreased demand. 

So here we are in early April, trying to predict the future, as everyone else in the world is trying to do the same.  In our hearts, we are anticipating the “Best-case Scenario” and at worst, hoping for the “Delayed-Recovery Scenario.”  Most importantly, we are all praying that our nation is able to work together to keep the loss of lives at a minimum, and to recover as quickly as possible on all fronts.

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TV isn’t going anywhere: Why Marketers Should Not Abandon Traditional TV Advertising

TV isn’t going anywhere: Why Marketers Should Not Abandon Traditional TV Advertising

With the everchanging digital age, and the recent trend of TV viewers cutting cords and switching to platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Vudu, it’s natural to assume that the traditional TV advertising space would be in a state of decline. However, there is significant evidence that suggests that although digital advertising is becoming a popular method of gaining ad views, it still does not match up to the volume and effectiveness of traditional methods of advertising. According to a recent study by Dataxu (recently acquired by Roku), approximately 70% of big-screen advertising still lies in the traditional TV space as opposed to the 30% coming from the digital ad space. Based on these results, traditional TV advertising still reigns, as exemplified by the $10 billion spent on television in 2019 by the biggest advertisers.  The higher rates of active ad viewership, ability of advertisers to target their audience through programmatic TV capabilities, and the proven effectiveness of TV ad media are just some of the many reasons the largest advertisers in the industry love television.

Major Advertising Companies Continue to Turn to TV for Majority of Their Ads

With the increasing use of data to improve the TV advertisement space, the outlook is better than ever in terms of building an effective advertising campaign, increasing brand image, and targeting the right viewer. In fact, Geico, one of the most well-known brands in the country, claims that TV advertisements are most effective in building their brand. Geico still spends about 4 times more on traditional TV advertisements per month than they do on digital. According to Statista, GEICO spent $23.46M on TV advertisements in a 7-day time period. Companies like these make the overall outlook for the television advertising industry look promising for the future. 

Even digitally native brands have touted the power of TV advertisement. Touch of Modern, for example, has found success in their TV advertising initiatives. According to Touch of Modern Founder, Jerry Hum, TV advertising began as an experiment for their company in their search to find the best advertising strategy, and resulted in TV having the biggest chunk of their marketing spend. View the video here: 


Why TV is so effective and appealing to Advertisers:

Engaged, Active Viewers:

Research states that although digital forms of advertising are becoming more popular, TV advertising maintains its place at the top in the advertising industry.  According to research conducted by the University of Adelaide, eye-tracking was used to show that TV ads are more effective in terms of connecting to the viewer emotionally, and for commanding twice the number of active viewers as YouTube and 15x that for Facebook. Active viewership is defined as the level of engagement tracked through active eye-contact, active listening, and personal connection to the ad that is collected by the device the consumer is using.  Studies showed that during a TV advertisement, a larger percentage of viewers were actively viewing the ad based on eye movements than during a digital advertisement. With digital advertising, users are able to bypass advertisements entirely by controlling their advertisement viewing experience, clicking out of ads entirely, and remaining idle when an advertisement plays in the background. This, however, is less of a problem in the traditional TV space since its more likely for the consumer to view the ad directly as they are not able to click out of the ad, or indirectly through passive listening or viewership while they wait for their TV program to resume.


Mass Reach with Improved Targeting Capability Through Programmatic TV

In order to combat non-active TV viewership, TV advertisement companies have begun to implement addressable TV ad placements in order to tailor ads to specific viewers and households. Addressable TV leverages data collected from cable subscribers in order to target specific households and tailor the viewers’ ad experience through segmentation at a geographical, demographical, and behavioral level. Addressable TV is seen as an add-on to traditional TV strategy that helps make planning more efficient and, today, in the United States, there are approximately 64 million addressable households, with the spend expected to rise to $3.37 billion next year. 

As evident, the TV advertising industry has evolved with the digital shift to demand better tracking and targeting capabilities, data-enablement, and better attribution through programmatic TV. In order to stay competitive, the industry is shifting to include these digital capabilities. For example, Marketingcharts.com states that 57% of the industry uses first-party data, 49% uses third-party behavioral data, and 64% uses third-party demographic data in order to target their audience with a tailored advertisement experience and to keep viewers engaged. Major advertisers utilize programmatic capabilities in order to pinpoint the exact customer they are looking to serve in order to maximize their media dollars and minimize wasted impressions. 

With the everchanging world, its easy to see that although much of the advertisement space is turning to digital to differentiate their media reach, traditional TV advertising maintains its hold over the advertising industry overall. With analytics and data-driven results that are being implemented into the industry, it will become more important to tailor the advertising experience to viewers, thereby making the traditional TV advertisement even more powerful and effective. Only time will tell how the online streaming TV platforms will play into this shift, but until then, Traditional TV advertising isn’t going anywhere.

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EMOTIONAL ADVERTISING: How Great Storytelling Can Strike a Chord with Your Audience

EMOTIONAL ADVERTISING: How Great Storytelling Can Strike a Chord with Your Audience

Every marketer understands the challenges of creating impactful content that resonates with their audience. It takes a lot of research and strategizing, including understanding your target audience, how to reach them, and putting the right content in front of them that accomplishes the marketing goal, whether it be generating brand awareness, sales or leads. 

In today’s digital age, content is EVERYWHERE and people are constantly bombarded with advertisements. This makes it ever more difficult for marketers to sift through all the “noise” and to create a marketing piece that breaks through to their audience. So, how do we, as marketers, get around that? The answer is, great storytelling. 

One of my all-time favorite marketing campaigns is the Subaru LOVE campaign. It is Father-Daughter storytelling at its best, but as a Mom with two boys, it still resonated with me immensely. The “Baby Driver” advertisement from the campaign shows a Dad going over safety driving precautions and handing over his car keys to his teenage daughter, who he still sees as his little five-year-old girl.

In this commercial, Subaru cleverly told a story filled with emotional elements that immediately struck a chord with me: 

  • Seeing our children grow up before our eyes, literally in a flash 
  • The desire to protect our children and make sure they are safe, always…especially once
    they start driving 
  • The tendency to view our children as children, even as they grow up and become adults. 

My eyes welled up with tears by the end of the commercial and seven years later, I still remember it. Subaru’s campaign goal was to sell the safety of their cars but they found a creative way to tell a story, deliver that message, AND make an emotional connection with their audience without having to be literal about it. 

When it comes to great storytelling, here are some key things to keep in mind. Every story should include: 

  • Character(s) 
  • Conflict/Lesson – makes a human connection 
  • Resolution – wrap up story, but should include a CTA 

Storytelling Best Practices: 

  • Use content to create emotional appeal 
  • Be consistent and authentic 
  • Keep story clear and concise

Digital Marketers are tasked with having to create new content regularly and it can be daunting to come up with fresh ideas all the time. Once you are ready to start the content process, the constant to remember is great storytelling. Remember that once you come up with a new piece of content, you can find creative ways of repurposing that content by changing the format, or slightly altering it for different audiences.

To learn more about how to incorporate storytelling into your marketing efforts and examples of great storytelling content, visit the below links: