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Practical Advice from 5 TV Brands That Made the Jump to Digital

TV brands that made the jump to digital

The best video ads for a push medium like TV don't always translate well to the pull media universe of digital ads and social networks. New Nielsen data indicates that 75 percent of TV ad impressions are seen by no more than 20 percent of the target audience.

As MediaLink's Wenda Millard expressed it, "TV advertising always has been spray and pray. Because we couldn't do anything about it, we used to laugh. Now, that joke is long over. It's not funny to waste billions and billions of dollars."

It can prove difficult, however, to adapt marketing practices honed on television to the new logic of instant response digital. Without the most careful attention to detail and layers of social media savvy, you could end up with Pepsi's apology for "making light of a serious issue" with its Kendall Jenner protest piece. Or Dove's regrets after a Facebook snippet of a TV ad earned them accusations of racism.

Take a look at five brands that smoothly transitioned, along with one central lesson from each.


New York Times



The iconic New York Times has survived plenty of technological disruptions over the past 167 years. While other old-world media companies struggled to connect with younger readers in new channels, the New York Times found its footing by shortening and simplifying its message. It tapped into the anxiety over what is real or fake in the media by creating a 30-second ad that ran nationally for a sympathetic audience during the Academy Awards. The ad cycled through a series of hot-topic search inputs that complete the sentence "The truth is ...." The structure made it easy to carve up into micro-ads that went out along various social media channels. After racking up more than 15 million views on air, the New York Times arranged targeted social media buys and direct email in the same format. As a result, it increased its digital subscription rates to more than 300,000 in 2017.

Pro tip: Every microsecond counts. Experiment with ad content that can be sliced and diced into easily digestible social bytes, with equal weight on the visuals and sound.



Airbnb Night at

Many tech startups, particularly those in the closely watched collaborative consumption sector, have been roiled by scandals over the past few years. Airbnb is no exception, as society awkwardly adapts to the implications of sharing private property with strangers on a massive scale. The secret of scrubbing your brand identity is to keep producing positive messages until they outweigh the negative. It's not easy, but Airbnb has demonstrated how to do it repeatedly.

TV ads require a lot of lead time for ideation, storyboarding, hiring talent, production, approvals, etc. Airbnb hyper-accelerated that process for a social media campaign when it noticed a trending tweet by a customer who got locked into a bookstore overnight in London. Airbnb tweeted the bookstore, Waterstones, to ask if it want to be a host. Within 24 hours, the two businesses had set up an online competition to win an overnight stay in the bookstore where the man had gotten stuck. Afterwards, the story was added to Airbnb's "Night At" TV ad campaign, turning a potential PR disaster for the store into a huge win for both brands.

Pro tip: Holly Clarke, Airbnb's Marketing Manager for EMEA, said, "Be flexible. Have a flexible concept that can stretch to any part of the world, and also make sure this stretches to different passions." Planning is good, but agility is better.



Merdedes Last Fan Standing

If you thought the best way to grab attention during the Super Bowl was to buy a Super Bowl ad, you may be a few years behind the times. Today, the smartest move is to give customers something to do with their phones. Mercedes runs many kinds of TV ads, and it certainly has the money to buy airtime at the big game, but in 2018, it chose to run a 21st-century mobile version of the "hands-on-the-car" contest. During the Super Bowl, Mercedes decided to give away a $56,000 AMG C 43 Coupe to a viewer who could hold their finger on a virtual streaming-video version of the car as it rolled across their phone screen. It was so bizarre that it generated plenty of free press in multiple channels just due to the novelty of it all.

Pro tip: Zig when they zag. Charles Taylor, marketing professor at Villanova, commented that brands win at the Super Bowl when "they can link to the event with social media without taking out the $5 million ads."





Advertisers are storytellers at heart. There have been plenty of ads based on characters from children's books, so why not base a children's book on an ad? That's what Sainsbury did, hiring children's book author Judith Kerr to create a new character and story for its traditional Christmas TV spot. This became the most-watched Christmas TV advertising campaign ever, collecting more than 30 million views on YouTube. The accompanying book raised £1.6 million for literacy charities in the UK. Sainsbury didn't let all that positive buzz go to waste. They asked parents on Facebook to post videos of themselves reading the book to their children. This strengthened the brand message and brought in more content, which they then edited into a second TV ad.

Pro tip: Don't underestimate your audience. They are under time pressure, but they will make the time to watch high-quality entertainment. Encourage users to post their own content in response to yours on social networks.


20th Century Fox



When you think of an ad for a movie, what comes to mind? A trailer, of course. That's the old way of thinking. To promote its feel-good musical "The Greatest Showman," 20th Century Fox questioned its assumptions and tossed out tradition. The studio released trailers on TV, but didn't lead with that. Instead, its digital push took fans behind the scenes with mini-featurettes on social, a singing contest on YouTube, and an Instagram feed about the crew. The movie crashed a few box office records while its social campaign brought back awareness and consideration uplifts that were 5X higher than industry standards.

Pro tip: Never accept the answer: "That's the way it's done." Social is two-way dialog, not an extra channel for broadcasting old TV ads. Customers are eager to talk and be part of your marketing team if you will simply listen to what moves them.

Staying at the top of your game with best-in-class advertising involves a mix of creativity, flexibility and a sense for the right time to strike. All can be honed by following the lead of those who have made it look easy to shift from the push medium of TV to the pull world of social. You can create for TV and carve it up for social or test on social and expand the concept for TV, but you can't afford to neglect either at the ideation stage.


Also read:

Social Video Marketing: What are the Rules of Engagement?

3 Ways to Up Your Video Marketing Game with AI

5 Ways to Transform TV Ads to Effective Mobile Video Ads

Russell Chua
Russell Chua
Content Marketer at Creadits

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