The Social Power of Television: What’s In It For Advertisers

Awareness is fine, but advocacy will take your business to the next level.”

–        Joe Tripodi, CMO, Coca Cola

Marketers are demanding a shift from “impressions” to “expressions” in setting goals for their marketing campaigns. This according to the words of Coca Cola’s Chief Marketing Officer, Joe Tripodi, and with good reason.  Word of mouth drives sales and makes marketing significantly more effective.  It is the most disruptive force in marketing, according to McKinsey. 

Marketers are responding to a new understanding of the consumer decision-making process, which was neatly summed up by New York Times columnist David Brooks in his recent book, The Social Animal:  “The research being done today reminds us of the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice.”  Human beings have a tremendous need to connect with each other and rely on others to guide their decisions.

It’s this fundamental change in our understanding of the decision-making process that has motivated the leader in consumer media and purchasing behavior research, Nielsen, and the leader in word of mouth marketing research, Keller Fay Group, to team up in providing new tools to help marketers design campaigns to maximize sharing by consumers.

A New Definition of “Social Media”

A Family Watching TV Together

And that WOM opportunity must start with television, an advertising medium that drives more consumer conversations than any other. Recognized as the industry standard, Nielsen’s National People Meter panel (NPM) provides the ideal platform to measure the social, word of mouth power of television for advertisers.

Keller Fay Group has been monitoring all forms of word of mouth conversations—face-to-face, online, and telephone—as part of its TalkTrack® service since 2006. It is the only service that measures offline WOM on a consistent basis.  Employing a diary-assisted survey methodology, the firm collects data from a nationally representative sample of consumers in the US and UK, gathering detailed intelligence for nearly 10,000 brand conversations every week.  The study design permits marketers to connect WOM about categories and brands to known demographic segments and to monitor change over time.

The survey also contains questions that link WOM to marketing channels, such as television, radio, print, direct mail, promotions, and in-store marketing.  A central finding is that consumers frequently refer to media or marketing in their word of mouth conversations, and television is the biggest influencer.

TV Most Referenced Medium in Word of Mouth

Source: Keller Fay’s TalkTrack®. Data collected from April 2012 to March 2013, during which time 36,712 interviewers were collected among respondents ages 13 to 69. Conversations included references to these sources of information.

At the top of the list of touch points, TV commercials are referenced in 11% of all conversations about brands, more than double the proportion that refer to a paid Internet ad (4.8%), and triple the number for newspaper ads (3.7%) or magazine ads (3.0%).  The second most important medium is also on television—in the form of TV programs themselves.  Owned media—displays, coupons, brand websites, product packages—are also among the leading reference points for conversations.

Based on these findings, it’s time to include television, on all its platforms, in our definition of “social media.”

Moving from “Impressions” to “Expressions”

Coca Cola’s Tripodi is not alone among CMOs in calling for a shift to an emphasis on generating consumer “expressions.”  Audi CMO Scott Keogh has said, “Advertising is really a conversation starter.”  More and more, the top marketers are saying their campaigns are designed to be talked about and not just seen.  Says Keogh: “There’s no advertising that was like ‘this is our product, this is what it does, it goes fast, it costs this much.’ It’s impossible to get a conversation off of that. [Instead] we plunged in and said what can we get conversations around, and where can we get them started.” But how do you plan media campaigns to generate conversations?  Lots of marketers have complained that planning a campaign to “go viral” is a lot like trying to capture lightning in a bottle.  It’s too dependent on the alchemy of a clever campaign and creative execution, among other intangibles.

But, in fact, the fusion of Keller Fay’s TalkTrack® and Nielsen’s NPM research offers a tool for planning media to maximize word of mouth, by providing category and brand conversation estimates for every Nielsen measured audience.  Based on this knowledge and recognizing the central role that TV ads play in sparking conversation, campaigns can be directed to precisely the audiences already predisposed to engage in conversations about relevant brands.

Impressions vs. Expressions

Take, for example, five of the top rated primetime broadcast programs: The Voice, 60 Minutes, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, and Revolution.  Each of these programs reached between 20 and 28 million adults 18 to 49 in the month of November 2012.  But their audiences also generated between six and eight times as many weekly conversations about technology brands, with The Voice extending its reach through 192 million weekly technology conversations. This is possible because the Nielsen TV/TalkTrack® Data Fusion tells us that the audiences of those same shows talk about technology brands several times per week.  Importantly, the number of these technology conversations varies by program—making some programs more or less attractive as an advertising vehicle for consumer technology and electronics companies.

Brand-Level Planning

TalkTrack® also picks up the specific brands that consumers talk about, and the fusion connects these brand conversations to media audiences. We are learning that a media plan designed to hone in on these “brand talkers” can be quite different than one which is aimed at a traditional demo.

Illustratively,  during the course of a typical day, about 7.1 million people talk about the Macy’s brand, and the cable programs they watch is rather different than those that are watched by a typical demo for shopping, retail & apparel—women 18 to 49.

As demonstrated in Figure 3, the top women’s oriented cable television programs reached between 16% and 25% of the women 18 to 49 demo in March 2013.  But these programs have a much higher reach against the people who talk about Macy’s in the course of an average day, and who are thus very likely to share Macy’s messages with their friends and families. Also, we find that the reach performance rises much more for some programs than others—Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins & Dives improves by over 40% in its reach against the Macy’s talkers.

Women Oriented Cable TV Program Reached

The “talkers” for other brands produce very different programming winners from a media planning perspective.  With the benefit of the Nielsen TV/TalkTrack® Data Fusion, it’s possible for each program and each network or channel to identify its strengths in a highly social marketplace.

Advertisers have long paid a large premium for audiences of the Super Bowl as part of their effort to maximize word of mouth for product launches, new campaigns, and brand promotions. In part, they make these decisions because they know that people will not only see but also talk about their ads. With the Nielsen TV/TalkTrack® Data Fusion, every day can be more like Super Bowl Sunday.

For more information, contact the Keller Fay Group:
65 Church St
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 846.6800