Second quarter is a critical period for DRTV and direct response marketers. Product and creative/offer testing in springtime is crucial in determining inventory order quantity, direct response TV advertising budgets and retail placement in the back half of the year. Seasonality also comes into play for advertisers with products in the horticultural category or anything that favors warmer weather.
But in the DR media marketplace the second quarter (2Q) is rarely a tranquil time. 2Q is traditionally high-priced with limited inventory and inconsistent viewing patterns. These factors make it difficult to test and analyze the viability of new products, not to mention maintain profitable rollout campaigns. What is the best strategy to take during the most problematic quarter of the year? By taking a prepared approach, marketers can enter the season knowing what factors will affect the marketplace and influence consumer response.
From the climax of original broadcast TV to seasonal spikes in rates and declining viewership, these markers are indicative of how marketers can better prepare themselves in 2Q.
Increased Media Pricing – What drives rates up so high in second quarter? Blame it on general advertising! Major brands take up a sizeable chunk of the marketplace with promotions for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter. Heavy campaigns leading up to the May sweeps (see below) and the summer season also eat up inventory and raise prices. With general advertising consuming so much of the media, the remnant inventory that would normally go to DR quickly dries up, causing prices to skyrocket on what remains. This is especially true in the kid’s marketplace, when toy marketers and other children’s targeted advertising ramps up in the weeks prior to Easter and Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards.
May Sweeps – During the weeks when Nielsen mails out paper diaries to collect viewership data (Sweep Weeks), broadcast and cable networks are under pressure to deliver their best programming in order to meet promised ratings. May is therefore a huge primetime TV season, filled with highly advertised episodes on top of season/series finales (Read more about this in our “Why May Matters” post). With even greater audience viewership in primetime, general advertisers increase their marketing dollars during these time slots, leaving little to no inventory for DR sales. The cumulative effect of the May programming changes is that not only are DR advertisers shut out or priced out of major cable networks, but because of this migration from broadcast, available broadcast inventory drops because of shifting viewership.
Overall Viewer Response – On top of the challenges and high price of clearing media, viewer response from week to week can be spotty and inconsistent. Warmer weather and spring sports draw children and parents outdoors and away from the TV, while staggered Easter vacations and Spring Breaks from March through April (depending on when Easter falls) drag response down across the board. Hitting fewer eyeballs while paying premium rates can cause even hot campaigns to take a hit during these months.
There’s no doubt about it: second quarter is tough. But with realistic expectations, savvy media-buying and analysis/decision-making that factor in the above elements, marketers can successfully navigate through to July.