Americans watch an average of five hours and four minutes of TV per day, according to Nielsen. They're talking about television shows, sports, and other programming that captures their attention.

This viewing is increasingly fragmented depending on age group. For example, the Millennial age Q1 viewing is dropping by more than 10 hours per week from 2011 to 2016. However, the weekly viewing numbers rise significantly as the age bracket increases. There's also a corresponding shift by age group towards streaming services. For example, younger age groups are more comfortable and willing to move to streaming and away from traditional TV service.

Despite the fragmentation, TV is still a very effective driver of direct-to-Web traffic.

The importance of Direct Response TV

Brands take notice of consumers' TV usage by embracing the channel as a way to reach people and to encourage online interactions. Responsive TV or Direct Response TV (DRTV) is a quality tool for raising online awareness and activity because brands have a longer amount of time with longer ads to explain the benefits and features of a product or service.

For example, with a 2-minute or 60-second spot, brands can use DRTV to explain their product or service's uniqueness, which is especially important for more complex offerings. Graphics can be introduced to reinforce messaging. The look and feel of the spots can give viewers a sense of the brand's website experience, so there’s already a sense of comfort to conduct an online visit.

One of the best ways to exponentially grow an online business

The industry is seeing a significant amount of drive-to-Web campaigns on television, which reflect the power of TV across all channels.

For example, companies such as hotel search pricing aggregator Trivago and Progressive insurance both encourage immediate online action, with consistent mentions of the company's sites and content regarding the ease of use.

When companies increase their TV spend, it correlates to unique visitors to their site. And when companies drop their spending, there's typically a parallel drop in visitors.

Brands that use TV and want to boost online activity need to focus the best ways to capture viewers' attention. For example, they can utilize personalized messaging and effective testimonials, and mix in website screenshots.

Also, brands are using adaptive content, which are sites where the content changes based on certain elements, such as the specific viewing device, characteristics about the viewer, and other contextual factors. An example of such adaptive content could be a longer product/service description for desktop video viewers and a truncated version for mobile device viewers.

Another key element is understanding the attribution that needs to occur between the Web response and the TV airing. Also, consider the "halo" affect TV has on other channels; it drives organic traffic and can influence paid search, video, banners, and other related marketing channels.

Moreover, brands use television to drive customers online because it drives visits and conversions from visitors to actual users and eventual sales.

When agencies are launching unknown brands via DRTV campaigns, it’s often best to present the accompanying online experience in a literal fashion, with on-screen "typing" of the URL and current Web screenshots. The call-to-action of the spot directs the viewer to a unique landing page instead of corporate URL. It won't be auto-filled when typed. For example, it might contain the word "buy" or "get" at the beginning.

In terms of content strategy, focus on the brand's value promise in a drive-to-Web campaign. The content should address the specific problems the brand is addressing and how exactly its product or service is the right solution. Television is ideal for this approach because video can succinctly show product demonstrations, and repetitive viewings further enforce the message.

Customized strategies for TV ads

For brands and agencies, it's vital to create customized strategies so TV campaigns can enable several goals:

  • Building educational awareness about the product or service, which is especially important for more complex offerings
  • Showing consumers how a certain process works, so they have a sense of the brand’s online experience. Ease of use and automation can be quickly illustrated with TV spots.
  • Making it easy to move from viewing the TV ad to completing a transaction on the consumer’s second-screen device

Agencies work closely with brands to optimize the length of DRTV creative to match goals and strategies. They may start with more traditional, longer format of 120 and 60-second spots to lay out the benefits of a service and lay out the usage process, and then shift to shorter 30- and 15-second spots as the awareness grows. And then, they can shift to a frequency-based reminder mode of 15-second commercials to keep the brand top of mind.

* * *

Television is still the main driver of brand and audience awareness, and there remains a direct correlation between TV spend and unique Web visitors. Brands should continue to look to the power and uniqueness of DRTV on-air efforts to educate customers quickly while pulling in visitors across multiple online channels.

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image of John Pucci

John Pucci is chief marketing and creative officer at Hawthorne, a full-service direct marketing company and advertising agency.

LinkedIn: John F. Pucci