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Samsung's Scary TV stat // Magazine subs // Branded facemasks

04 May 2020  |  Dominic Mills 
Samsung's Scary TV stat // Magazine subs // Branded facemasks

Dominic Mills looks at the TV stats that shocked last week's Future of TV Advertising audience. Plus: rediscovering the subscription magazine habit; and a low point in branding

I count myself fairly hardened to the narrative about the decline of live TV. We all know which way it’s going, although in individual households there will be significant differences about the pace of decline.

Even so, I was shocked by two stats produced by Andy Jones, head of Agency Development at Samsung Ads, in a session at Mediatel’s Future of TV Advertising day last week. You can find more details of the whole day here and catch up with the presentations here. Jones is about 4.30 hours in.

The stats are these: 28% of Samsung smart TV households in the UK watch less than 2 hours of linear TV a month; and 14% watch none at all. All told then, 42% are light — very light — linear viewers.

Now the first caveat is that Samsung smart TV households are not representative of the nation as a whole. But there are 5m of them, and 44m across Europe. According to Ofcom, smart TV penetration in 2019 was 47%, and probably over 50% now. It’s unlikely that viewing habits in other smart TV households will vary much.

Nor is it clear what the demographics and typical make-up of Samsung or smart TV households is, but they are likely to be younger and family oriented.

They may also, counter-intuitively, be heavy TV viewers, just in different ways. One of the fascinating stats produced by Barb a couple of years ago showed in some households Netflix and Amazon Prime viewing wasn’t at the expense of other broadcasters but on top of existing TV consumption.

As Jones showed in his presentation, this shifting behaviour puts the TV manufacturers in an influential position, not just in terms of the data they have on viewing habits, but also as the gatekeepers to the home screen.

And all the while that home screen gets more crowded and complex. According to Jones, there are currently 775 advertiser-funded, video-on-demand (AVOD) channels all fighting for a share of attention.

What a nightmare. It’s hardly surprising then that Samsung is positioning itself as the viewers’ friend.


Subs up

Last week, with an apologetic floaty “whooffff’ sound, a thin, unaddressed and unmarked envelope dropped through my letterbox.

Normally I don’t bother with mail that isn’t addressed or marked — but hey, times are different.

I was surprised — and a little bit impressed — to find a Conde Nast leaflet inviting me to subscribe to one of its titles for the bargain price of £1 per printed issue.

Good for them. In what is clearly a terrible climate for newsstand sales — what newsstand, you might say — you’ve got to do something.

But it seems the UK is indeed discovering (or rediscovering) the magazine subs habit, according to Magnetic’s Sue Todd: 7,250 new subs to The Week Junior in April; Bauer’s online subs purchase up 70% this year; and a 100% increase for Hearst in the second half of March.

I totally get it. I subscribe to one weekly and one quarterly. The quarterly is due soon, hotly anticipated, and the arrival of the weekly on a Friday is a highlight. Only four days to the next.

And talking of media-owner initiatives, hat tip to ITV for its idea of the ‘People’s Ad Break', in which it has invited the public to make their own versions of ads from a list including Aldi, Walkers, Weetabix and Honda's cog. The winners will be shown in a special break later this month.

We all need cheering up, and this will help.

I hope ITV repeats it, but next time with a focus on naff ads. Someone, say, with a voice flatter than East Anglia does the opera singer in Go Compare.

Or better still, Ferrero Rocher’s Ambassador’s Party. Except it’s a Zoom party.


A COVID low — branded facemasks

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps appears to have done two things since he took office: give HS2 (instructed by his boss) the green light, and propose lifting the 60-year ban on skywriting — i.e. using smoke trails to write ads in the air.

Apart from the fact that this is an odd thing to prioritise in the middle of a pandemic, the proposal hasn’t gone down well with environmentalists and those who go “Oh no, not another space invaded by advertising”.

And yes, advertising’s quest for ubiquity is undimmed by coronavirus. Branded facemasks are the latest frontier, currently in the US but sure to come here too. Last week Disney jumped on board, offering 4-packs with your favourite character. Now I get that character face masks might encourage children to wear them.

But Disney is offering them for $19.99 — yes, just under $5 a pop. Even if you’re ok with buying a branded facemark (which I’m not) that sounds like a total rip-off.

Nor is Disney alone. Others said to be climbing on the bandwagon include the NFL and Universal Music, with some rumours Trump’s MAGA supporters are also planning one, presumably with a syringe attachment to blast some bleach down your throat if you feel a symptom coming on. Not to be outdone, the fashionistas are piling in too.

For some there is clearly no bandwagon too crass to climb on. Just search ‘branded face masks’ and a slew of promotion companies are pumping their wares. Here’s GoPromotional telling us: “When it comes to practical office giveaways, printed face masks are the perfect product! Branded with company logos and messages, they are highly popular with health related promotions, council awareness and NHS campaigns and can be distributed easily at events, conferences and trade shows.”

And exactly what events, conferences and trade shows can they be distributed at?


CMOs — separated at birth

I was half listening to a daily Downing Street press conferences last week when one of the rotating cast of Cabinet ministers said words to the effect of: “And now I’d like to hand over to the CMO who will take us through the latest figures.”

At which point I sat up. The government has a CMO? Who? What do they do? Would they be talking about the effectiveness of the Stay Home campaign?

Doh! I’ve obviously been stuck in adland too long. In the real world, CMO stands for Chief Medical Officer.


Next week, as part of the Future of Media Trading, Dominic Mills will be interviewing Sir Martin Sorrell - the live-stream event is free to watch. Agenda and registration available here.

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MaxWilley, Director, BVA BDRC on 5 May 2020
“Seems like a missed opportunity with the facemasks. I think it would be OK in principle to advertise on them if they were distributed free. You might look like a bit of an idiot with, say, an Aldi logo over your mouth but at my age I don't really care and the brand benefits if it is known (i.e. part of a well planned campaign) that it distributes them free. I had to wait nearly a month for my plain one from Amazon. Would have been delighted!”
MattHill, Director of Research and Planning, Thinkbox on 4 May 2020
“Hi Dominic,

Be very wary of those Samsung stats! They make a great headline but are hugely misleading because they are TV set data, not people data. You can’t deduce viewing levels from them

What they tell us is that 42% of Samsung TV sets are used to watch fewer than 2 hours of linear TV a month. This really isn’t as surprising as it may sound. We have three Samsung TVs in our house, and two of them aren’t connected to any means of accessing linear TV, they are purely OTT. The one in the living room however – the main one we use – is connected to Sky Q and through this we watch a hefty amount of linear TV. But looking at the average across the three sets you wouldn’t know this.

There’s no doubt that census level, return path viewing data from the likes of Samsung TV sets, or Sky’s set top box data, is going to be an important part of the future of TV measurement. But, on its own, its use is limited at best and deceptive at worst. Andy Jones should reframe this point and make it clear that he isn’t portraying people’s viewing behaviour or even households’ behaviour. He is showing TV set activity, which is very different.”

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01 Jul 2020 

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