Increasing the Quality of Program Promotions

07 January 2013 | Blog

Last month, Tivo released a “promo conversion rate” for a number of the shows that debuted over the fall. (They tracked how many of an opt-in panel of 45,000 Tivo subscribers watched a series premiere after having seen three program promotion spots.) The data makes a fairly convincing argument that it’s not the frequency of the ads that led to success, but the quality. After all, series with enormous promotional budgets, such as NBC’s Animal Practice, enjoyed huge reach and terrible conversions (and were subsequently cancelled), while the CW’s Arrow had the lowest reach of any of the new broadcast series but wound up with the third highest conversion rate (and a full season).

So as important as reach is, it’s clearly not all that matters when it comes to convincing audiences to watch a show. Of course, the quality of the show itself matters—it’s hard to make a good promo for a terrible program—but plenty of great shows have sunk beneath the waves without a trace despite their quality. So how to improve things for the next batch?

There are a lot of technological tools that have become available in recent years for marketers to add to their toolbox. Running targeted campaigns is one option that kills multiple birds with a stone—pitching shows specifically to their targeted demographics offers the most efficient use of a network’s resources for more than one show at a time. Creative customization can also help, making it easier to remind viewers as airdates approach and efficiently drop in new scenes as series progress.

But it’s following Tivo’s example that might be the most promising. Tracking conversion rates is a step towards testing promotions on a rational basis. The best way to learn is to experiment—to run some ads, see how the conversion rates are affected, and repeat. And the only way to do this effectively is with more data. Tivo did not release information on demographics or details on the promos themselves. A savvy marketer would seek out ways of obtaining more information like this. Does the time of day of the ad change the conversion rate? Do different ads resonate with different segments of the potential audience? The opportunities opening up with the advent of devices such as smart TVs are enormous. It’s time to stop the guesswork and start the science.