Advertising Trends at the 2018 Winter Olympics

 In Blog

Since February 9, millions of viewers have been tuned in to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. But for advertisers, it’s not just the athletes getting the attention. This tentpole media event is also an opportunity to examine the state of TV spending, the ever-shifting habits of consumers, and the new strategies marketers are using to reach them. So far, the news is mixed: NBC reports that it has sold more than $900 million in ads for the games, a figure that includes 60% of investment coming from new advertisers. But initial ratings also suggest viewership is flat or declining. What do these Olympic trends mean for advertisers? And how are top spenders adapting? Here are three takeaways.

Non-Linear Measurement Is Evolving
For broadcasters and advertisers, the linear TV ratings from 2018 are certainly cause for concern. But as a growing number of industry executives are starting to recognize, advertising during a big event like the Olympics is no longer just about traditional TV. It’s just as much about how TV can complement the growing popularity of other viewing channels like over-the-top (OTT), video on demand (VOD) and mobile. Consider NBC’s recent shift to its new “Total Audience Delivery” Metric, which takes into account linear TV viewers alongside those watching on VOD, OTT and mobile when reporting to advertisers. Using this metric, NBC says it has so far exceeded guarantees that were made to its sponsors. Meanwhile, other digital-centric metrics like those related to social media sentiment suggest the Olympic Games are performing quite well with audiences.

Innovation Is Central to 2018 Olympics Campaigns
It’s not just measurement techniques that are evolving in response to changing Olympics viewing habits. More and more advertisers and publishers are shifting their ad campaign approaches for this year’s Olympics to incorporate a growing variety of innovative new ad formats. Following the example of Fox, NBC debuted a new 6-second ad format with its partner Toyota for the 2018 Games. In addition, the broadcaster also launched new interactive ad content that connected TV viewers can engage with via their remotes on Apple TV and Amazon Fire devices. Both moves are a good sign that publishers are willing to evolve their approach to keep the shifting digital audiences engaged and entertained.

Top Brand Advertisers Are Getting More Targeted
Another big change for advertisers in Pyeongchang is a growing focus on more efficient, hyper targeted ad campaigns. At first glance, the news that top Olympics advertisers like GM, P&G and AT&T are spending less on this year’s games might give some industry observers pause. But read a little deeper into the companies’ rationales for the decrease, and it’s clear that there’s a silver lining. Rather than cutting dollars across the board, companies like P&G are choosing instead to distribute their dollars across a variety of different ad platforms in order to boost overall campaign ROI. “As a top sponsor since 2012, we have found ways in every Olympics to get more efficient and effective in building our brands across all consumer touch points including in digital, e-commerce, TV and in-store,” said a P&G spokeswoman in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. In other words, advertisers aren’t simply decreasing ad spend across the board —they’re moving their money where it will best serve their business goals.

The Olympics offers the perfect window into today’s constantly evolving media consumption habits and marketing trends. Going purely by the latest news headlines, it’s almost too easy for advertisers to conclude that ratings and ad spending in Pyeongchang are less strong than expected. Dig beneath the headlines and a clearer picture emerges: a snapshot of an advertising and media industry that is rapidly expanding its measurement capabilities and creative toolset for a new era of TV viewing. It’s a golden age of opportunity, one that advertisers and publishers are already racing to deliver.

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