We Want Our HDTV Ads!
As high-definition televisions gain more prominence in North
American households, DRTV advertisers are looking at how to
most efficiently incorporate both HD and SD.
Timothy R. Hawthorne is founder/CEO of Hawthorne Direct, a full-service brand response agency based in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Fair;eld, Iowa. He can be reached at (641) 472-3800 or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
High definition has changed the way viewers watch TV and the way DRTV producers make and format commercials. Credit the affordability of HDTVs and the picture
quality and clarity that they provide for pushing the
majority of consumers to deep-six their old televisions
in favor of these state-of-the-art entertainment boxes.
A 2012 Treehouse Media and DG study, Increasing TV
Advertising Impact in a High Definition World, found that
HDTV household penetration has increased from 28. 4
percent in 2008 to a 80.1 percent today.
Also increasing are the number of media outlets
that accept and use HD. Currently, 82 percent of major
networks and 70 percent of national cable networks consider HD to be the broadcast standard, according to the
study. This isn’t a behind-the-scenes movement either
— viewers can discern between HD and SD content. In
fact, 76 percent of survey respondents said they could
spot content that’s being shown on an HD channel and
not produced in high definition. Not only is HD picture
quality noticeable, but it’s seen as a “superior format” for
retaining audience interest, as well.
High definition is about more than feeling like you’re
standing in the middle of a European landscape and
being able to see the pores on actors’ faces — it also sells
products and services. Using a commercial’s holding
power or audience retention rate (also known as “
tunea-way”) as a measure, Treehouse and DG found that spots
that air in HD outperform SD spots by over 18 percent.
“This equates to an estimated commercial value lift of
more than $8 billion across the industry,” says Andrew
Donato, vice president at New York-based Treehouse.
Interestingly, he also says that the 18-55-year-old male
demographic tends to be the most discerning when it
comes to HD versus SD advertising. “They don’t like
anything in SD and
they change channels a
lot,” he points out.
With more HDTVs
working their way into
homes and more consumers detecting the
difference between SD
and HD, one would
think that advertisers would be jumping to adapt to the
latter. Quite the contrary, according to the report, which
found adoption lagging. In 2011, HD ad adoption was
just 16 percent — compared to 2 percent four years ago.
The higher costs, complications and misconceptions that
surround HD all come into play when marketers decide
which format to use for their DRTV commercials.
In many instances, HD ads must be delivered on tape
due to the fact that not all stations are using the same
broadcast or delivery platforms. This adds some complexity and cost on both the production and delivery side.
The fact that 20-25 percent of stations don’t currently
take certain advertising in HD, and the double formatting required to handle closed captioning, are also making marketers think twice.
George Leon, Hawthorne Direct’s senior vice president of media, says the best way to balance the HD vs.
SD equation is by looking at the product and the commercial itself. Highly branded spots produced by corporations, for example, should nearly always be created in
HD and then converted down to SD for those networks
that don’t accept the former. Beauty and skincare commercials — which require high detail for demonstrations
— should also be in HD, Leon points out, while weight-loss, fitness and housewares products would be able to get
away with SD in most circumstances.
Price point also matters and needs to cover the additional cost of HD dubbing, equipment and tapes. “If
you’re selling a widget for $9.99, the cost of HD may not
necessarily work out in your favor,” says Cole Van Heel,
new business development director at North Country
Media Group in Great Falls, Mont. One way to circumvent this challenge is to test commercials in SD to save
money and time. Then, when you’re ready to roll out the
campaign you can incorporate HD into the equation.
An avid HD viewer who starts channel surfing when
picture quality diminishes, Van Heel expects more marketers to take the high-definition route as the associated
costs become more affordable. “There are still many cases
where SD makes sense and also a lot of brands and other
products for which the HD investment pays off,” says
Van Heel. “As dubbing, equipment and other costs come
down for HD, it will get to the point where SD is really
no longer an option.” ;