Mudd Insights | Should you be on Television?

I enjoy talking and listening. I enjoy talking about the art and the science of making your advertising work and listening to you tell me who you really want to sell to. Once we’ve helped decide what your message is and who you want to show it to, the next question is usually where and when should it be broadcast? I thought the first medium in the huge array of possibilities to discuss is the most commonly thought of by clients – Television.  How does it all work and is it right for me?

What makes a good TV campaign?

I’ve asked that question to many people in this business.  I’ve asked myself what I have done to make plans work well.  The answers and perspectives are all over the board. So let’s start with the facts.

The scientific answer would be basing your placement on Gross Ratings Points (GRPs) and Nielsen ratings. Usually, the run-of-the-mill recommendation is a minimum of 250 GRPs per flight (schedule) with the flight lasting about a month long.  GRPs are the measurements by Nielsen based on a percentage of journal keepers in the marketed area you are advertising in.

Say you want to reach women over 25 and you get a rate sheet (avail) from the television station that is in your target market. Right away you notice that for women 25-54 years old, Oprah gets a “5” GRP rating.  This means that if your market has 100,000 women aged 25-54 in it, then 5% are watching Oprah at that particular season of the year.  Believe it or not, a “5” is pretty fair.  You go, Oprah.

So if you only bought Oprah for your entire campaign, you would have to buy 50 commercials during her show in one month to reach your GRP goal of 250.  Now, say every time you buy a commercial, it costs you $200. Then you are paying $200 to achieve “5” GRPs and that translates into $40 for each point earned. This is your Cost Per Point (CPP), the price every single GRP will cost you. Is that effective to spend $10,000? Maybe.  Maybe not.

What if the exact 5% of women watching are the same women every single time?  Well, seeing the exact same ad more than 10 times may become annoying to them.


Nielsen is currently the only mainstream and bankable resource out there that rates television. So, yes, in many ways you need that guide to help you and to hold TV stations accountable. But there are many variables to Nielsen.  First of all, how many people do you personally know that journal for Nielsen?  They are the ones out there making these ratings valid and determining what shows are worth. There are roughly 25,000 total American households that participate in the Nielsen daily metered system. The number of U.S. television households as of 2009 was 114,500,000. As a result, the total number of Nielsen homes only amounts to 0.02183% of the total American television households, meaning that 99.97817% of American households have no input at all into what is actually being watched.

How do you know a show is worth it?

Here are my questions to ask yourself before deciding if Oprah is right:

What kind of women do you want to reach?  Do they have kids? Are they single?  Do they like fast cars and tattoos? To me, the phrase “women over 25” means you have estrogen in your body and you can vote. This is where Nielsen and television stations fall short.  They cannot tell you anything but gender, age and geographical markets.  You may get a spreadsheet of numbers that look great, but what if three months later you didn’t make any money? What if the 5 GRPs is the 5% of women you didn’t want to reach?

What if Oprah fell and broke her hip and took two months off? What if her writers are on strike and you get back-to-back reruns?  Nielsen’s book averages are a season/year behind.  They base her show in October on what it rated in the October before and use the household shares on the quartered season before. Yes, it’s that simple. (Just kidding) Long story short, it’s dated info.

Grey’s Anatomy – the shift from Sunday to Thursday

greys-anatomy-season-4-wallpaperGrey’s Anatomy was on after Desperate Housewives every Sunday night in 2006 and reigned the broadcast waves. Then, ABC figures the show is so popular that it can stand on its own so they bump it to Thursday nights.  Now, when the next year’s season rolls around, it looks like Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays is only getting an 8 or 9, compared to a 15 that any new show after Desperate Housewives looked like it was getting.  On paper, Grey’s didn’t look as hot as it used to be.  But it was hot.  (By the way, once the journals were caught up the next year, it was getting over a 23 GRP on Thursdays – It just took 2 years to catch up.)

Dancing with the Stars – just how engaging is it?

Since I brought up Grey’s Anatomy, here’s my next point.  When looking at ratings and cost, they were neck and neck with rating points to Dancing with the Stars. So that means that the same amount of people were watching each show.  So why does Grey’s Anatomy cost so much more?  Because it’s engaging, that’s why.  Grey’s Anatomy was a laugh, cry, what-will-happen next serial.  They sit through the commercials so they don’t miss a thing. Dancing is, well, dancing. A reality competition.  Many companies are starting to think about this engagement phenomena as a way to gauge ratings, but nothing is bankable yet. It’s just Nielsen.

To sum it up…

When you figure out your GRPs and your CPPs, then you can put together a schedule of shows that display Nielsen standards of reach and frequency.  Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.

You need to really narrow down and define your true customer. Study television’s ebbs and flows and keep a current scoop of what’s going on. Pay attention to ratings, but don’t make that the deal breaker. Know which programs are really going to hit your core audience and not just the gender.  Or better yet, just call me.  I can help guide you in the right direction and figure it out.  It’s what I do. It’s what I like to do.  I like to do it so you don’t have to.


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