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Brand Response Advertising on TV? Yes, You Can

April 10th, 2019   ||    by Susan Kuchinskas

In 1997, at the height of the dot-com boom, tech start-ups entered the Super Bowl ad extravaganza. As AdAge reported, it was a glamour play for exciting new companies—many of which failed, thanks in part to overly lavish spending.

Today’s fast-moving start-ups are again lining up for Super Bowl spots, with a difference. According to The Drum, their agencies use the strategy known as brand response advertising.

Brand response advertising is a hybrid strategy that combines the heavy branding that television commercials excel at with a call to action that may be clear or “soft.” In an ultra-competitive market in this premium-priced medium, these smart start-ups are wringing every bit of benefit they can from their TV advertising dollars.

This can be a tough thing to pull off in any medium: Branding can overwhelm the call to action, or the ad becomes cluttered and confusing. However, despite the common wisdom, television might be the perfect medium to accomplish this dual strategy.

The 30-second TV spot offers enough breadth and depth for branding to take place, with a call to action at the end hitting home with an already engaged viewer.

The Right Fit

This strategy might not be right for every TV advertiser. Another reason why tech unicorns—startups valued at $1 billion or more—are doing this is that they tend to be consumer-facing companies, The Drum explained.

It pointed to Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker,, Airbnb, and Uber as examples of companies that this is a good fit for. Geico’s ads are a good example of this strategy. Its TV ads always tell a funny story, while a soft call to action ends each one. (“Get Geico” is a soft call to action because it doesn’t include an explicit action like, “Call now.”)

Where’s the Response?

This softer form of advertising can lead to a variety of responses, noted As Seen on TV. While viewers may call or visit the website immediately or later, such an ad can influence retail purchase decisions in the future.

One reason for the success of brand response advertising, AdExchanger noted, is that people often watch television with a mobile device in hand. If the brand is top of mind, thanks to a TV spot, an interested consumer can quickly find out more without hearing an aggressive, “Call now!”

The emotional appeal of a branding ad on television creates a powerful and long-term connection with the brand, UK agency Dinosaur said. Even if that ad doesn’t lead directly to an action, when a consumer finally becomes ready to buy, it may make the difference. This effect is particularly important when it comes to converting occasional customers, rather than brand loyalists. When confronted with two products or services that are about equal in features and price, branding can make the difference.

Local TV Meets Brand Response Advertising

The key element of all response advertising is measuring effectiveness—how many people responded. In this blended ad tactic, with soft calls to action, agencies must be able to understand the total response over time and across channels.

TV measurement is an important part of this calculation. Last fall, Nielsen expanded its Total Audience capability to measure reach, frequency, and gross rating point performance for ads and content across all local designated market areas. It’s important to note, however, that local market ratings are based on a quarter-hour viewing of any content, rather than average commercial minutes viewed.

Programmatic television platforms can offer real-time campaign results, bringing the accountability of direct response ads to brand response advertising, giving marketers the best of both worlds on local television.

Brand response advertising on TV isn’t right for everyone, but it can be a powerful way to get in front of new people, convey a message, and truly engage customers.

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