Warm weather and sunny skies in May can lead to cloudy conditions for many advertisers. For local, network and cable TV, the month of May is huge in many ways. The largest of Nielsen’s four ‘sweeps’ months (which also include November, February and July), this period is instrumental in planning advertising and scheduling decisions.
May is a challenging time; it is a hectic period for TV networks shuffling to determine what programs are renewed or cancelled. However, for advertisers, especially DRTV, May is considered to be the bottom of the year. Although networks compete for ratings using cliffhanging season finales, series finales and specials (this week alone saw the season finale of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars), the truth is, television’s May climax doesn’t translate to high ratings. Media rates are at their highest and viewership trends are at their lowest. Factors for low ratings include increased cable competition, the onset of summer re-runs, programming changes due to season finales and even the time of year (daylight savings, warm spring weather and weekend sporting events all impact daytime results). This spring, initial ratings for many shows dropped to new lows, specifically amongst advertisers’ key target, the 18-to-49 age demographic (USA Today).
The networks’ demand for eye-catching media is high while advertising (especially Direct Response Television) supply is short, fueling increased media rates. Coupled with year-low viewership, advertisers are paying more per viewer, per television order and per retail sale, leading to higher expenses overall.
While the goal is to be wise with your ad buys and get measurable results, May should not be ignored. Overall viewership drops across the board, particularly on network television, and cable programming steers away from the summer re-run format. It is still prudent to maintain a presence on TV. The savvy, experienced media buyer understands this month. They will consider the opportunities, implement media strategies that deliver optimal results and set realistic expectations.
For advertisers, it is important to understand the media cycle is filled with nuances and nothing should be planned broadly. The right combination of A, B, and C networks can deliver an effective campaign result at the most efficient cost. Whether it is amidst the fury of fall premieres or summer re-runs, the right media mix can still keep your product top of mind. May might not be the best month, but done right, it still matters.