MBPT Spotlight: Reaching ‘Lead Influencers’ Is Key to Marketers’ Success on TV

A new joint study commissioned by Discovery Communications, in partnership with MediaVest, identifies an important group of TV-watching consumers that it says represents an emerging opportunity for advertisers to engage with audiences in new and interesting ways.

The study calls this group “lead influencers” and defines them based on their ability to impact what their family and friends watch on television, and by their propensity to share ads and recommend brands and to actively seek new content.

Pam Pearce, senior director of research ad sales for Discovery Communications, says lead influencers are frequent show viewers, with four in 10 spending 15-plus hours a week watching TV programming. Lead influencers also are likely to watch on multiple traditional and digital platforms and “are driven to discover new brands and products,” Pearce says.

Pearce adds 44% of lead influencers “recognize that advertising can be a positive and important part of the entertainment experience,” noting they are “more likely to pay attention to ads that connect with them in the moment and that are able to help them with what they are currently doing.”

Lead influencers are more likely to reward brands that help them interact with their favorite shows, such as providing opportunities to connect to show-related content across digital enabled devices.

The goal of the study by the TV network group and the media agency was to gain greater insight into how consumers view television and the impact it has on their perception of advertising. It was conducted online during March and April by Latitude Research and includes data collected from 1,052 TV viewers ages 18-54 who are regular TV watchers and who have an Internet connection.

Helping to define the group as lead influencers was their ability to be likely drivers of TV and other social viewing choices among their family and friends. Sixty-three percent of lead influencers say that when they watch TV with family and friends, they are the ones making the decisions about what the group watches. That figure compares to 51% of all TV viewers who have that influence.

Sharing Funny Commercials With Friends

Lead influencers are 49% more likely than all TV viewers to tweet about a show on Twitter; are 47% more likely to text or email friends about a show; 47% more likely to “like” a show on Facebook; 53% more likely to enter contests related to a show; and 67% more likely to use the apps of a show’s network.

They also are more likely to share ads with their friends, particularly spots they think are clever or funny, and are also likely to be more engaged with the shows they are watching and, as a result, more engaged with commercials.

Among some of the study’s other findings:

  • While in-person word-of-mouth is still the dominant way that audiences learn about programs to watch, digital and social media play a big role among multiplatform TV viewers.
  • Multiplatform viewers are more likely to discover programming and access it digitally.
  • Many viewers say there are TV shows they would not have started to watch on a regular basis without multiplatform access.

The survey also found that those who watch the Discovery networks—Discovery, Animal Planet and TLC—are 37% more likely to be lead influencers than non-viewers of those networks. But all networks do have varying shares of lead influencers that marketers can tap into.

"While traditional television still makes up the lion’s share of all viewing, there is a growing share of audience that wants and expects advertisers and content creators to provide choice and options that extend far beyond the linear TV experience," Pearce says. "Those who satiate the desire of the lead influencers will be building a framework for effective communication, both today for this critical audience segment and in the future as the majority of viewers adopt these new viewing styles."

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