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Why TV is still powerful for building food brands

Some of the most successful internet brands still spend the bulk of their ad budget on television.

5 min read


Idaho Potato Commission ad


In 2017, for the first time ever, digital media spending is expected to overtake TV advertising. According to eMarketer, in the US, TV’s share will be at 35.8% of total media ad spend and digital’s at 38.4%.

It may come as a surprise, then, that some of the most successful internet brands, like Facebook, Google, and Netflix, spend 60% or more of their ad budgets on TV

Did you notice on the 2017 broadcast of the Oscars, Google had a noticeable presence? And a natural tie-in with the movie Lion? ABC sold out of their Oscar times at $2 million per 30 second spot.

Why? Because television is still the most powerful medium for brand building. And memorable brands are trusted and sell product. Rich Lehrfeld, senior vice president of global brand marketing and communications at American Express, agrees, saying, “When we run a heavy TV schedule, we see a lift in sales and product awareness. We need to run two weeks of digital to get the reach of one day of broadcast.”

Think of the most iconic food brands you know: Coca-Cola, Tony the Tiger, Green Giant, etc. Can you remember their TV advertising? Of course you can. Their powerful commercial messaging touches emotional senses in consumers. This drives memorability, sales, and long-term brand equity. Still, keep in mind that the ad must efficiently reach the targeted consumers, break through the clutter, and tie back to the advertised brand or product. Successful brands do it well and deliver high ROI.

Not just the mega-brands with mega media budgets

And it’s not just the big ad spenders. At EH+Y, we have created successful television campaigns for our food brand clients at various budget levels.

The Idaho Potato brand is well-recognized, and not just among commodity brands. The reason for that is more than a great product. It’s that they’ve been an active television advertiser for years and continue integrated campaigns inclusive of television.

(In case you’re wondering, despite thousands of reported sightings around the country, the Idaho Potato Farmer has not yet found the giant Idaho Potato Truck.)

California Walnuts had not been on TV for a number of years. When we launch the new campaign on multi-media channels, there was an immediate response to the advertising with website traffic visits. During the first month of the campaign, web traffic increased by 286%. There was an expected decrease in traffic in March after the TV schedule ended, but traffic still continued to be significantly higher than the prior year. In concert with impactful print, digital, social, and television messaging, we are driving awareness and sales of California Walnuts.

People still watch TV, no matter what they say

All these brands were built on, and are still sustained by, television. That’s because people still watch and get involved with TV ads, no matter what they say.

But does TV do more than build great brands? Does it actually sell product? Direct-response advertisers depend on immediate engagement and an actual purchase action when their commercials run.

This past holiday season, the hottest item in the neighborhood was the Star Shower Motion, a laser light projection system with thousands of dual-color laser stars that creates a shimmering pattern against the house front from a light-stake in the ground. How does one such item become popular everywhere? It starts with TV advertising that drives e-commerce.

I was also the grateful recipient of a lovely Red Copper Chef pan you only see on DRTV. It came from a friend who frequently assures me that he “doesn’t watch tv.”

Combo of TV and digital delivers as much as 60% better ROI

As media professionals, we know it isn’t a simple choice between television and digital because they work beautifully together. For food, wine, restaurant, and casino brands, we plan integrated media campaigns with multiple touchpoints and targeted consumer channels, whether traditional or non-traditional media, in order to deliver on goals and category-specific key performance indicators.

Based on an Advertising Research Foundation study of global campaign data, the more platforms, the more effective (increasing ROI). The combination of digital and television was the most compelling media combination, delivering as much as 60% better ROI than other media blends. Additionally, about 75% of the impact of a campaign is generated by the creative, with synergy across platforms being the most effective.

There is no question that online and the social platforms Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and streaming channels are important assets to your marketing communications plan. But when it comes to building your food brand and delivering high reach to the target market, the addition of TV is still the most powerful medium for brand building and delivering sales results.

Lily Katz-Smolenske is senior vice president of media at Evans,Hardy+Young. She has extensive experience in all aspects of advertising media and works closely with EH+Y’s clients on strategy development. She’s a food fanatic and has an expansive cookbook collection. Learn more about EH+Y’s capabilities.