Online Ad Effectiveness Depends on Time of Day

While TV advertising has always been structured around times and dates, digital marketers are just waking up to the possibilities of how time targeting in the digital space can maximize the effectiveness of their messages.

A study by the U.K. Internet Advertising Bureau with Lightspeed Research found that online consumers of all ages believe they are more likely to pay attention to ads from the early evening onward. Younger audiences in particular showed more interest in commercial messages as the day progressed, while older age groups had distinct peaks in attention between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Only 4.6% of consumers say they’re likely to pay attention before 9 a.m., but after 6 p.m. the figure climbs to 51.6% and, for 35- to 44-year-olds, as high as 59%. In the 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. lunchtime slot, consumers have other things on their mind and an average of only 11% pay attention to ads.

Worst times to interrupt

“Knowing when surfers are more receptive to advertising messages allows marketers to target their campaigns more closely and get the most from their online advertising budget,” said David Day, CEO of Lightspeed Research Europe. “With so many different activities being carried out by the online population, knowing when to get your message across can be the difference between success or failure for an online campaign

The ability to target ads by time of day is fairly common on the web; but marketers and agencies that buy that way are not.

The research also showed that the best way to reach consumers is during e-commerce activity, when 65% say they’re likely to look at ads; 19% report they are “very likely” to do so while they are either researching the best deals or actively shopping online. The worst activities to interrupt are reading the news or using e-mail and instant messenger, when only 6% are “very likely” to respond to commercial messages.

“We know a lot about behavior, but I don’t think we are using all the opportunities technology is offering us,” said Jeroen Matser, strategy director of Tribal DDB in London. “There are various reasons for this, including about the current debate about privacy and data capture, but also because simply not enough people are familiar with what’s actually possible. The key to success is in the integration of creative development and media planning.”

Timing key for out-of-home ads

For its VW “Night Driving” campaign, which promotes the fun release of driving at night, Tribal DDB has been targeting people during specific times of the day, weighting media toward the end of the day and seeking out people in a state of relaxation, to give the campaign the required context. Another VW online campaign determined what times of day ads should run according to the dwell time of the specific sites included in the campaign.

The critical nature of timing doesn’t end online; it is also increasingly crucial to digital out-of-home campaigns, where marketers are still experimenting with the possibilities. Nicky Cheshire, director of Alive, CBS Outdoor’s digital division, said, they can receive copy “within hours of a campaign going live. Different days and times have different values to different clients.”

A recent Wieden & Kennedy campaign for Lurpak butter in the U.K. promoted the idea that Saturday is breakfast day, so the campaign ran on digital outdoor screens from Thursdays until midday Saturday.

U.K. lottery operator Camelot also puts different values on different days according to when draws take place and in the event of rollover weeks. And Sky TV, for another example, promotes its news in the morning and then sports or movies later in the day.


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