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A young couple stays up watching a late-night show on the couch: live TV

Live TV Stays Up Late—and Advertisers Should Too

November 28th, 2017   ||    by Susan Kuchinskas   ||    No Comments

The iconic variety show Saturday Night Live (SNL) has been on the air since 1975. Well, isn’t that special? And what’s even more impressive? While cast members come and go, the shows ad rates seem to head in just one direction: up.

Despite the growth of streaming services, there’s definite value in advertising on late-night live TV shows like SNL—and here’s why.

Live From New York . . . It’s as Current as TV Gets

One key to SNL‘s success is its live format. The show famously reworks sketches and fiddles with its lineup until the very last minute, which allows it to address fast-breaking news and emergent cultural themes. And when it comes to programming, that’s something exclusive to linear TV. Even if a streaming show gets produced quickly, the content might be watched hours, days, weeks—or even years—later.

SNL is not alone in these quick turnarounds. Following an unscheduled press conference by President Trump, a writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert said the writing staff rewrote the host’s monologue in half an hour, according to Fast Company. Responding to the same news, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Seth Meyers quickly pulled together pertinent responses via their opening monologues.

It’s that extreme currency that makes live TV so popular with advertisers. Variety says late-night live TV shows are raising their prices due to the strong demand. At this year’s upfronts, advertisers were eager to commit to news and magazine shows that cover the fractious political landscape, according to Variety.

Lynne Biggar, chief marketing officer at Visa, explained at a Fortune panel discussion in January 2017 that while the brand continues to advertise heavily on television, it now emphasizes live TV specifically.

The Biggest Bang for Your Buck

While live TV shows can deliver viewers, especially in the crucial 18–49 demographic, the higher ad rates create a problem. How can advertisers make sure their precious ad dollars are making an impact?

Here are some ways to wring the most value out of every buy:

  • Embed in programming: Instead of merely running spots during ad breaks, many sponsors make a deal to become part of the show. Variety pointed out how shows like The Late Late Show with James Corden, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and Jimmy Kimmel Live! often incorporate sponsors into the actual program. For instance, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Colbert interviewed an animated owl, the mascot of the allergy medication (and sponsor) Xyzal.
  • Make a personality match: Research and strategy collective House 51 found that when sponsors of a show borrow elements of the show’s style, the sponsorships create a personality fit between the brand and the show’s viewers that was 53 percent higher than between the brand and nonviewers, reports Campaign. Viewers of the show were also much more likely to perceive sponsoring brands as successful companies.
  • Get into must-see TV: Despite fragmentation in viewing habits, there are a few tentpole television shows that garner outsize audiences, including the Olympics, Academy Awards, and European Football Championship. These shows can be extremely pricey, but high fan interest is the reason deep-pocket brands like GE put their money there.

Advertisers should also learn to love local. Local broadcast affiliates are usually the top demand from consumers contemplating skinny bundles, and live news is an important reason for this loyalty. Local live TV can help national advertisers hone in on niche audiences.

And as programmatic buying tools become more available, it will grow easier for advertisers to tap into that local love on top of the late-night craze.

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