As I think about the past quarter in media planning and the media industry as a whole, I am reminded of a recent song from the British music group, Steps, What the Future Holds. The lyrics say that we sometimes need to look back, even if it means “drowning in our history” to take a bold step forward into the fairly unknown future. As media planners, we are constantly looking back into the past, to project the future. While successful most of the time, at times failure can be a result of unavoidable external factors.
In 2021, we were impacted heavily as an industry with the dreaded ‘L’ word: Loadshedding (and lockdown); particularly with the above-the-line side of advertising and, of course, television. When looking back, we can see how many disruptive years we’ve endured since 2015.
The table below, extracted from the EskomSePush app, highlights this fact. In the first quarter of 2022, 10.9 days of loadshedding in total have occurred. In comparison to the previous year, we can see a significant reduction, though these figures will be monitored throughout the winter months ahead.
Partly due to the loadshedding of 2021, we also saw TV media inflation rise above the industry norm (total media inflation for 2021 is at 17.08%), while total TV media inflation sits at 26.71% – this is according to the Mike Leahy’s media inflation watch for January – December 2021. Although overall TV rates only increased on average by 3.65%, the performance dropped by -16.26%, a clear indication of the impact of loadshedding on the overall performance of this medium.
Looking into the future, what should have been a certainty for 2022 – the switching from analogue to digital TV (DTT) – has also now been put on hold until end June to enable all the equipment and household boxes to be installed and activated. This switch is both needed and unsettling at the same time as the future of what this switch will do to consequence on our TV universe and sample sizes for our client’s brands is unknown and all media planners will need to take special care when looking at post campaigns and planning this year.
Every traditional media planner and strategist has many questions around the DTT migration – the most pressing question is probably “how will it impact my TV plans?”. As we use past data to project into the future, and as seen with Loadshedding, projected and post campaign data can at times be very different and achieve outside of the industry norm of 10% rating variance. The possible new universe and sample sizes that occur due to the DTT switch over could, in most cases, have a higher impact on actual vs projected ratings due to the target market measurement switch.
When looking at data from a Free State perspective only over October-November last year for the free to air channels, we have seen on average a 29% decline in All Adult viewers (source: Telmar). For now, the question of the impact on plans will have to be closely monitored once actual data and the final DTT switch over occurs.
How do we work around this? At this stage the scary answer is – we will have to wait and see! When the DTT process is 100% finalised, we can start seeing actual data for the whole country and for our specific target markets. If, however, free to air channels start declining in performance, as an industry we should then negotiate and work towards lower costs to bring the CPPs (Cost per Point or Cost per rating Point) back in line and perhaps shift spend where possible.
This thinking may be why some free to air channels are starting to raise concerns around the advertising spend on pay TV channels vs free to air.
In the uncertainty, it is also important to keep the Nielsen Research feedback report that was provided to the industry in November 2021, in mind. It has shown that 5% of the TV panel was part of the DTT measurement – this has seen a decrease in about 72 households measured from a free to air perspective – I think the biggest potential impact the DTT switchover will have will be the number of total South Africans being able to watch TV, which will have the most impact on our various universe and sample sizes of our target markets.
The ongoing DTT uncertainty for TV planning specifically and how the performance may impact on media budget splits going forward, means that it is imperative that we work closely with our brand teams at our various clients to help manage their expectations in this uncertain environment. They are caused by external factors we, as planners and the media industry in general, have no control over – open dialogue with our clients and teams will be key over this transitional period.
As an industry, we need to use the tools we have available to overcome foreseeable challenges to ensure a stronger 2022 overall where once again we’ll look to the past to predict the future.
Kevin Levy is senior implementation planner at Meta Media.
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