ITV: advertisers are realising 'huge benefits of TV' after record 115% ad surge in June

Carolyn McCall: chief executive of ITV
Carolyn McCall: chief executive of ITV

The rebound is 'across the board' in every category except travel.

ITV said a 29% increase in ad sales in the first six months of 2021, including a record June, with a 115% leap, shows advertisers are realising the “really huge benefits of what TV can deliver”.

The second quarter from April to June was up 89%.

The rebound is “across the board” in every category with the exception of travel, Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of ITV, said.

July should be up 68% and August 17% to 20%. September should also be “positive” but ITV said it was too early to make a firm prediction.

A big bounceback in ad revenue was expected because of the comparison with a year earlier during the first lockdown but ITV said its performance exceeded expectations and that coverage of Euro 2020 this summer was its most successful football tournament.

Ad growth of 29% in the first half of 2021 compared to a 21% slump a year ago.

“June 2021 delivered the largest advertising revenues for the month of June for ITV in its history, benefitting from the easing of restrictions and the Euros,” ITV said.

Total ad sales for June and July 2021 are “expected to be 16% higher than the same period in 2018 when ITV broadcast the Football World Cup and series 4 of Love Island” – a sign of TV’s resilience despite the rise of online rivals.

Advertising from video on demand was up 55% as more advertisers and agencies used Planet V, its addressable ad sales platform, and there was a 250% increase in VOD-only campaigns.

Two-thirds (65%) of all campaigns are now bought via Planet V on a self-serve basis.

McCall said: “Advertisers have come back to realising – some of them – the really huge benefits of what TV can deliver.”

This is a mixture of mass reach on linear TV, which is “hugely emotional”, and online advertising, which is “highly targeted”, she explained.

“You can get so much emotional messaging across – you can get tone across, joy across, you can uplift people with TV advertising,” McCall added, citing the recent Tyson Fury ad about mental health for the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).

“People have realised the emotional stuff that you can communicate, which has become more important to them because of the pandemic, but also we've now also got the programmatic – the digital advertising, which is highly targeted.

“I think advertisers are now much, much more aware of that delivery from TV than they were two, three years ago,” McCall said, although she conceded all of TV has benefitted in the short term from the challenges facing outdoor and cinema as many people stayed at home and reduced travel.

ITV cited product placement deals, including Purplebricks in Coronation Street and TikTok in Saturday Night Takeaway, and ad-funded show Cooking with the Stars with M&S Food as examples of new and deeper brand partnerships.

Love Island also has a record number of commercial partnerships, engaging in programme sponsorship, brand licences, in-store branding and product placement, including Just Eat, Boots, JD Sports, Spotify and I Saw It First.

McCall added that ITV – Britain’s biggest broadcaster by ad revenue, with 92% of audiences over three million – had shown responsibility by not showing any gambling ads during the Euro 2020 games as part of the betting industry’s voluntary “whistle to whistle” ban from the start until the end of the match itself.

Sale of Channel 4 and pingdemic impact on production 

McCall insisted she would not “speculate” about whether ITV might be interested in buying Channel 4, which the government has said it plans to put up for sale; it has launched an industry-wide consultation.

“We’ve had a conversation or two with DCMS about the consultation and they’d like us to contribute,” which was to be expected, she said.

However, she refused to confirm suggestions that the government might have encouraged ITV to consider buying Channel 4.

Separately, McCall said she is talking to DCMS about how to alleviate pressures on production caused by the so-called pingdemic, as staff are asked to isolate by the NHS app because of a big rise in Covid infections.

“I would be lying if I said it was not a difficult situation from a production point of view,” she said. “You have people on-set. You've got crew and cast, and you don't want to lose anybody to isolation. It is a worry. So far, we're managing it and we're mitigating it and we're handling it.

“We have been talking to DCMS about exceptions for certain aspects of production for TV because we do some vital services as a PSB in areas such as news and daytime," she said, adding that she didn't expect a decision until mid-August.

ITV’s brand consideration has declined

ITV’s results revealed a continuing decline in brand consideration during the pandemic from 53% spontaneous awareness in 2019 to 50% last year and 46% in the first half of 2021.

“Spontaneous consideration amongst all adults and light viewers was down 4.4 percentage points and 4.0 percentage points respectively year on year, mainly impacted by the continued growth in SVOD brands [such as Netflix and Disney+],” ITV said.

“We remain one of the top three brands within all TV channels and platforms in the UK, demonstrating the high quality of our content and the positive impact of our marketing investment.”

ITV, which has re-invested in brand under McCall by appointing Uncommon Creative Studio and Essence for creative and media duties, previously told investors that brand consideration had suffered last year because of “the absence of key content in the schedule which would normally have a positive impact (sport, dramas, key entertainment), along with strong competition from the SVOD platforms”.

It is understood that brand metrics suffered in the first four months of 2021, partly because shows such as winter Love Island and Britain’s Got Talent were cancelled because of Covid, but the decline eased in May and consideration rose in June.

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