Advertising Insights

December 11, 2014

Playing Well Together: Facebook Helps Live-Sports TV Advertisers Increase Reach

Pairing Facebook ads with TV spots helps live-sports marketers Microsoft and Visa increase reach among key demographics.

Advertising Insights


    Big games mean big audiences. For the 2014 Super Bowl, some 111.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the Denver Broncos challenge the Seattle Seahawks, giving brands a chance to reach the largest TV audience ever recorded, according to Nielsen.1 And across the pond in Germany, a record 34.66 million people watched their team triumph over Argentina’s in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final, marking the highest-ever viewing figures for German television.2

    But the raw viewership numbers don’t tell the whole story. While the 2014 Super Bowl audience was a record, it still represented only 43% of people between the ages of 18 and 49 in the US. As viewers increasingly time-shift, multitask, device-switch and second-screen, it’s getting harder for brands to reach all the people who matter to them on a single advertising channel.

    To better understand how brands can continue to reach the right audiences in this changing media landscape, Facebook’s Marketing Science team worked with Nielsen to analyze the effects of adding Facebook ads to Super Bowl-related campaigns for 2 large brands, Microsoft and Visa. We recently spoke with Junayd Dyck, the advertising researcher at Facebook who led the study, about what the findings mean for brand marketers. Edited excerpts of our conversation follow.

    What is different about TV advertising being a long time staple for brands around live-sports events such as the Super Bowl

    Q: TV advertising around live-sports events such as the Super Bowl has long been a staple for brands looking to reach a mass audience. What’s different about today?

    Junayd: I think the key difference today is that people are consuming media differently than in the past. On the one hand, TV has become more fragmented. In the past, there may have been a handful of national networks. Reaching everyone on TV was simply a matter of getting advertising onto one of those networks. Now TV has fragmented into so many different channels and different modes for watching, such as DVR and various on-demand services.

    Central to this research is that media consumption among people of different ages is changing in a dramatic way. The habits of the 45- to 49-year-old end of the audience look very different from the habits of viewers under age 30. Younger demographics are watching less broadcast TV and, even when they do watch it, they are dividing their attention between different types of online media and across a variety of devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

    These shifts have real implications for how effective a single tent-pole TV advertising campaign can be in reaching these two ends of the demographic spectrum. And both ends are relevant to brands. For marketers, that is a challenge—they don’t have as captive an audience, all in one place—but it is also an opportunity. There is good evidence that reaching people on different platforms with a brand’s creative messaging better reinforces campaign messages.

    Recommended strategies given the changes in how people consume media

    Q: As part of your job, you work with brands to help them get more out of their TV spend. What strategies do you recommend given the changes in how people consume media?

    Vicki: It’s pretty simple. We noticed that advertisers who complement their TV advertising with online ads on platforms like Facebook are actually able to reach certain demographics in a more efficient way. This is especially true for younger audiences, where Facebook can really extend reach beyond TV alone. The net of this is that a campaign that combines TV and Facebook can achieve consistently high reach across all the age demographics that matter to advertisers and are part of their overall target audience.

    This is really clear when you’re looking at the content. For example, the most popular Instagram content during the Cannes Film Festival was personal-feeling photos taken by celebrities, while one of the most popular Facebook posts was from a film critic who criticized one of the judges’ selections.

    Another good illustration of this comes from the 2015 Melbourne Cup, a high-profile horse race. The most popular Instagram content during the event came from celebrities and focused on fashion, while the most popular Facebook content centered on animal rights and real-time reactions to the race.

    Based on these findings, marketers might experiment with sharing reactions and opinions on Facebook and behind-the-scenes content on Instagram.

    What drives people to each feed

    Q: Let’s talk about what drives people to each feed on an emotional level. You found that both Facebook and Instagram are strong at satisfying a broad range of emotional needs, from “control” to “relaxation.” But do they satisfy these emotions in the same way?

    Junayd: According to our study, fun on Facebook is more about humor, and fun on Instagram is more about encountering the unexpected. People surveyed who use both platforms more often agreed that Instagram surprises and delights them than Facebook. On the other hand, they were more likely to say that Facebook makes them laugh.

    Cross-channel approach work for campaigns around a tent-pole event such as the Super Bowl

    Q: How does this cross-channel approach work for a campaign around a tent-pole event such as the Super Bowl?

    Junayd: For the 2014 Super Bowl, Microsoft created a great TV spot that features the many ways that technology has improved peoples’ lives. In the end, it reveals that the narrator was NFL player Steve Gleason, who now suffers from ALS, using special software on his Surface tablet to speak. Of course, Microsoft was aware that the Super Bowl is a huge event watched widely across age demographics. But when you actually look at the reach and delivered gross rating points [GRPs], you see younger people are still much harder to reach in a single event than older people.

    What the brand did was, in combination with its powerful Super Bowl spot, it ran media on Facebook that started at the same time as it did on TV and leveraged some of the same creative themes. In the 4-day campaign, Microsoft actually reached nearly as many people on Facebook as it did with its Super Bowl spot. But the audiences were compositionally different.

    By adding Facebook to TV, Microsoft almost doubled its reach—from 35% on TV alone to 57% of all 18- to 49-year-olds. Especially with the younger 18- to-20-year-old audience, by adding Facebook Microsoft more than doubled the reach compared to TV alone—from 21% of people 18 to 20 to nearly 51%.

    Complementary effects of adding Facebook to TV campaigns over a long time frame

    Q: You saw similarly complementary effects of adding Facebook to TV campaigns over a long time frame. How is that strategy different?

    Junayd:The case with Visa was different in that the brand’s campaign ran over a much longer time frame—over 2 months of the 2013-14 NFL season. Visa’s television campaign spun together a variety of fan-generated NFL football dream scenarios under the “My Football Fantasy” theme, encouraging viewers to submit football-related fantasies on social media.

    Because the campaign ran over a longer period of time, Visa was able to reach quite a few more people than if the campaign had just run for a few days. On TV, Visa was able to reach 71% of the national 18 to 49 audience. But even after 2 months of running ads on TV, the brand still had portions of its target audience that it could not reach through TV alone. By adding Facebook, it was able to add an incremental 7% of unique reach, delivering a combined reach of 78%. In the younger audiences, the additional reach was much stronger. For the 18- to 20-year-old demographic, more than 18% of females and 15% of males nationally were reached exclusively on Facebook.

    Delivery of GRPs in TV advertising campaigns

    Q: How is this complementary approach affecting the delivery of GRPs in TV advertising campaigns?

    Junayd: What we’ve seen with gross rating points is very analogous to the reach patterns we’ve been discussing. GRPs skew higher for older audiences on TV. So combining TV campaigns with online media such as Facebook allows advertisers to even out the GRP delivery of their TV campaigns and achieve uniformly high combined (TV and online) GRP delivery across all of the demographics that matter to them.

    Tools advertisers can complement their TV advertising

    Q: What are some of the tools that advertisers can take advantage of to help them complement their TV advertising?

    Junayd: Advertisers can get a good indication of the projected reach before their TV campaigns air. One way to do that is with a tool provided by Nielsen called the Channel Planner. It uses Nielsen’s data on TV viewership to project reach for hypothetical TV media plans. Advertisers can get a sense beforehand of what proportion of a broad or narrow target audience they can expect to reach when they’re considering advertising around tent-pole events.

    With that knowledge, they can then strategically buy online media such as Facebook to layer in additional reach, particularly among the younger audiences that are likely hard to reach in high proportions with their TV buy. Facebook has recently made this process simpler with reach and frequency bidding—a new way to buy Facebook ads. What reach and frequency campaigns enable is the ability to dial in reach of a certain percentage of a Facebook audience up front while also deciding on a frequency that is maintained throughout the campaign. We hope this will align the process of buying Facebook ads more closely with that of TV.

    Marketer Takeaways

    Q: What can you tell us about how marketers outside the US are using Facebook to extend the reach of their TV campaigns?

    Junayd:Our understanding around Facebook and TV overseas is growing as the measurement solutions become available in more markets. While we haven’t yet looked specifically at sporting events like the FIFA World Cup Soccer or the Olympics, we have used Nielsen’s Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings to measure TV-plus-Facebook campaigns in the UK, finding similar patterns of TV viewership skewing generally towards older audiences. It’s true that TV viewership is likely to be different around different sports and in different markets. But the proliferation of mobile devices and an evolution in how people consume media are trends happening around the world.

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