Out of the Cold


The Northeast has been marked by nasty, wet weather and lower-than-usual temperatures this year. The first few months of 2015 offered up some of the coldest temperatures I’ve ever felt, and that’s why I’m so happy to see spring arrive. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary has happened, but at least there’s no more snow to shovel, and the temperatures don’t start with a minus sign.

Spring is about new hope—hope for warmer weather and sunshine. One thing is sure: I’ll never take above-freezing temperatures for granted again. And in May and June, the sun shines longer than in any other months, the temperatures rise daily, and the advertising world heats up, too.

May has always been an advertiser’s dream, due to the end of the broadcast season. Season finales and cliffhangers bring in big audiences with questions such as, “Who shot J.R.?” and “Ross said Rachel?” to provide the viewer with something to ponder for the whole summer. Cable viewerships also experience an uptick, with May up 5 percent to 7 percent over previous months and more avenues for advertisers to push products.

For the DR marketer, May can be a challenge, however. While the viewership numbers are there, consumers are already thinking about their summer vacations—and once they start thinking about the beach, their desire to buy products diminishes. Response rates usually take a nosedive compared to the first quarter and the first part of the second quarter. Reserve testing for retail pushes or products that give consumers something they need to survive the dog days of summer; otherwise the month could be a losing battle in the war for ROI.

For those interested in boosting viewership for a campaign, May offers lots of opportunities. There are many live sporting events to bring in eyeballs, including the first and second races of the Triple Crown—the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. If horses and huge hats aren’t a draw, the NBA and NHL playoffs are also in full swing on broadcast and cable.

May has two holidays that help turn the TVs on, though people aren’t always interacting with them. The first is Mother’s Day, which traditionally shows viewership increases for networks such as Lifetime and Bravo. Memorial Day brings viewers to ESPN, MLB Network, and Spike TV. The news networks typically suffer viewership declines on these holiday weekends.

As we go from May to June, expect shifts in viewerships and product mixes. Also expect the warmer weather to pose problems for all advertisers relying on television to drive sales, as more people spend their free time outside instead of watching TV.

June response rates are surprisingly steady, however, often showing increases over the previous month, and those levels usually hold steady through the end of the month. Testing new products during the month might show lower ROI compared to testing at the beginning of the third quarter, but sustaining response for existing campaigns shouldn’t be a problem. Pricing during the month favors the advertiser, too.

Audience Deficiency Units (ADUs) are always an issue, but hopefully, upfront numbers will have been satisfied by this point, opening up inventory for everyone.

To combat audience shifts, shift with them. Many times, advertisers follow the viewer from screen to screen in hopes of catching their eyes when pushing products. Moving dollars from live television to digital or video on demand is always an option. With more and more people binge-watching their favorite programs, catching them while they sit on the beach can be just as valuable as catching them sitting on their couches.

While June has its shortcomings in the way of viewership, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities. Wimbledon kicks off mid-June and runs through July Fourth. If horse racing is your speed, the Belmont takes place on the first Saturday of June. In recent years, the promise of seeing the first Triple Crown win since 1978 has kept viewerships high, but no horse has been able to take all three races. And the NBA and NHL finals kick off in the second week of the month.

June doesn’t have a major holiday, but we do throw a small celebration for dads on the third Sunday of the month. Television viewership jumps on Father’s Day, with all male-driven channels enjoying a bump in ratings. ESPN and the MLB Network will be big winners, while news channels will again get the short end of the stick.

Navigating viewership spikes and the response roller coaster are difficult aspects of May and June, but the warm weather will ease the stress. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Eddie Wilders is vice president of research and analytics of Lockard & Wechsler Direct in Irvington, N.Y. “Like” Lockard & Wechsler on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @lwdirect.