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Advertising on Late-Night Shows: Is It Worth It?

March 9th, 2017   ||    by Callie Wheeler

Should you be advertising on late-night shows? This question, straightforward and seemingly simple, probably had only one answer 10 years ago (a resounding “yes”). But today, in a world where even last night’s show is available on any device in easily digestible clips, that question may have an entirely different answer. As brands evaluate ratings, viewer demographics and trends, they may find online streaming has stolen away part of late-night TV’s audience.

So, is there still value in late-night ad spots?

Stay Awake to Opportunities

There’s a reason marketers still invest in live TV advertising—it’s a unique opportunity to reach viewers. Live television offers flexibility to address news as it happens, change show formats to reflect recent events and host newly relevant guests sooner than other programs.

Take Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, for example: The show is seeing a big increase in viewers thanks to President Trump’s election. According to Deadline, Late Show pulled in the most weekly viewers since Colbert first began to host in September 2015. The jump in viewers was directly related to Trump’s move into the White House, as Colbert played off the new presidency for content, continuing his streak into a fourth-week win (also covered by Deadline).

While no one can predict current events, advertising on late-night shows means aligning your advertising dollars with an agile, flexible program that can quickly adjust to cultural shifts. And tuning in nightly offers faithful viewers a way to experience that programming as it plays out.

Hang With the Right (Late-Night) Crowd

But who’s watching late-night television? Brands will find that every show has a demographic sweet spot, from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to Saturday Night Live. The following demographics from CinemaBlend give some insight into who’s tuning in.

  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon consistently pulls in the most viewers in the 18-49 demographic.
  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert tends to command an older audience, with most of its viewers coming from the 50+ demographic—though it recently came in second with the 18-49 group.
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! places third overall, though the program has historically come in second with the 18-49 demographic. Brands will have to keep watch to see if the show picks back up to beat The Late Show in this demo.
  • A recent Forbes piece highlights Saturday Night Live’s recent gains in ratings, with Alec Baldwin’s 17th hosted episode the highest-rated in over six years, and the season overall the show’s strongest in 22 years. The show is seeing a 19 percent boost in the 18-49 demographic compared to last year, which will mean higher-priced ads next year.

Brands can use this season’s ratings, historical numbers and current cultural and political events to figure out which inventory is the best match for their audiences. Does your brand need a politically conscious audience over 50? Try Late Show. Looking to reach across demographics and get some bang for your buck? Saturday Night Live may be your best bet.

Advertising on late-night shows is still worth most brands’ consideration. With research and thoughtfulness, you too can find the right audience to reach before bedtime.

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