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    It’s only live once: I’m a Celeb proves big TV moments still matter

    Jem Lloyd-Williams, chief executive of Mindshare UK, digs into the latest season of ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here to remind us of the pulling power of big live TV moments. 

    Like Marcus Garvey, Ernest Hemingway and many others, linear TV has read its own obituary way too many times. With I’m a Celeb raking in 9.1 million viewers (its highest rating of the year), it’s clear the old dog has life in it yet, and as media planners we should discount “old-fashioned” linear TV at our peril.

    Why so? Well, while the AV landscape becomes ever-more fragmented – and the delivery of big, impactful advertising moments becomes more difficult to orchestrate and measure – there remain fantastic opportunities for brands of every type to create advertising magic with huge audiences by investing effectively in linear TV’s marquee programming.

    With the World Cup just around the corner, a Christmas buzz in the air and a flurry of classic winter TV in the pipeline, there are plenty of big media moments approaching. And with the cost of living crisis tightening, we know for many that staying in becomes the new going out. Viewing figures are set to stay strong through January and beyond.

    The bottom line is that TV isn’t going anywhere (as fast as some might suggest) as a trusted advertising environment that continues to play a critical role in many brands’ campaigns. But that isn’t to say we shouldn’t be thinking carefully about maximizing our return from traditional TV.

    While many linear TV viewers now have the option to time shift, some shows and events retain the ability to encourage people to watch live. In the case of Super Sunday, it’s the buzz of seeing West Ham win live. For I’m a Celeb – which returned to our screens this week – it’s the irresistible compulsion to directly influence the day-to-day misery (and joy) of some unfortunate celebs… and Matt Hancock.

    Whether it’s making Boy George eat questionable things in the jungle or ultimately choosing the winner, viewers in their droves feast on classic live TV that encourages direct audience engagement – something streaming hasn’t quite yet cracked.

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    A view from the ground

    One of our brilliant AV business directors, Harmeena Nijhar, has been watching the launch of I’m a Celeb more closely than most. She’s clear that the show is still an important part of the TV schedule, especially for Christmas and Black Friday launch campaigns. She pointed out that during the opening episode on Sunday, brands such as Aldi, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda all had adverts. This demonstrates planners’ understanding of the continued strength of the program: that it can deliver mass audiences, with unique reach, in a trusted (and highly entertaining) environment.

    Harmeena’s view is that, while streaming provides both choice for viewers and cost-effective opportunities for advertisers, both brands and viewers want to be part of these big moments on TV. This is further amplified on digital, print and social, where headlines from I’m a Celeb dominate front pages and live feeds alike.

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    Complementing modern marketing

    We know live TV does not exist in a vacuum. Social media encourages and enables fans to interact with other fans of the show and respond in real-time to the action on screen.

    And social media is a great mechanism for creating even more buzz about a show’s launch and the following episodes. Look at how ITV effectively teased Matt Hancock’s first trial in the jungle – I suspect it won’t be his last, by the way. And we know from research that a constant drumbeat of social content complementing a show helps bring back viewers day after day, week after week. TV and social channels can work perfectly together, creating a positive return loop that immerses the consumer in the viewing experience.

    While the trend among younger audiences is undeniably more towards streaming and on-demand services, the viewing numbers for shows such as I’m a Celeb demonstrate linear TV still provides opportunities to reach them – and at scale.

    We saw 2 million TV viewers aged 16-24 tune into the launch of I’m a Celeb, making it the biggest audience of this age group across any program or channel this year. These types of big TV events – Love Island is another good example – appeal to a cross-section, not just traditionally heavy viewers of TV.

    With fragmented audiences and the complexities of modern media planning, TV still offers a fantastic – albeit relatively expensive – opportunity to get in front of big, blended audiences, with valuable light viewers in the mix.

    Especially in the UK, we should be very proud and appreciative of our thriving commercial TV sector. All the major broadcasters deliver consistent, high-quality prime-time programming that people want to watch.

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    Realizing TV’s potential

    Of course, linear TV’s appeal to advertisers isn’t just about delivering mass reach quickly. Smart advertisers think beyond delivering big audiences and fuelling ROI. Our research shows there is a positive effect on employee pride and engagement when they see their companies’ advertising appearing in these shows that are part of our entertainment culture.

    Defining and deploying a slick, click-light journey from spot to online store or platform is, of course, how smart brands squeeze even more out of the more brand-focused effects of appearing on ‘big’ TV – a discipline many advertisers have fine-tuned for years now.

    I believe big TV moments are here to stay – it’s only live once, as the Sky promo rightly points out. Hopefully, the broadcasters will continue to invest in them, and create new must-see-live formats too. With smart planning and a well-thought-through consumer journey, advertisers are right to still see them as an exciting and effective part of their overall media mix.

    Want to learn more about TV brands and how their ad products are evolving? Check out the TV Talks podcast.

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