How Food Advertisers Use TV

May 19, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The following is a short primer on television media planning for food products.
MRI classifies 62 percent of adults as “doing most of the shopping for grocery and household items.” About three-quarters of them are women. So planners are not off-base when they direct food media to the ladies. But for some products, the influence of men and their importance as shoppers should not be overlooked. The landmark Chilton Purchase Influence Study showed that husbands’ influence on product purchase ranges from more than 40 percent for frozen main dishes and desserts down to less than 10 percent for baby food. For most brands, women age 25 to 54 are the primary media target.
Food advertisers ran national TV at relatively low levels. Only 11 brands delivered more than 2,000 women 25 to 54 gross rating points. Ninety percent of them ran less than 1,000 points on national television over the whole year, and 30 percent ran less than 100 points per year. Again, this represents individual brands as reported by Nielsen, including line extensions in umbrella campaigns.
The average brand was on air for nine weeks. Although this is partly a reflection of the many small brands that were only on air a short time, we still see that 90 percent of the brands were on air for less than three months. With a few exceptions, even the longest-running brands advertised for less than seven months.
When looking at the weight levels for weeks that had more than 10 GRPs, it was evident that the average brand ran 46 women 25 to 54 GRPs per week. The larger brands scheduled up to 80 to 90 points, with the heaviest brands running close to 200 points-well below television’s heaviest advertisers.
TV Ads by Food Brand
The following is based on an analysis of competitive data from Nielsen Monitor Plus looking at activity in all media for all food products except snacks, candy, soft drinks and beverages from 1997 to 2001. In 2001 Nielsen reported more than 6,000 food brands, but only 2,400 of them, or 39 percent, received advertising-the rest just got a free-standing insert. Many of these were different flavors or forms of the same core brand.
Total spending by food advertisers remained relatively flat from $4.3 billion to 4.6 billion a year over the study period. Focusing on 2001, the bulk of traditional media spending was in television: network 28 percent, cable 19 percent, syndication 7 percent and spot TV 19 percent. National magazines accounted for 19 percent of spending, Hispanic network TV 3 percent, and all others, the remaining 5 percent.
Although television received the most money, it was concentrated on only 539 brands-less than 10 percent of all brands reported. Together they spent $2.2 billion in the medium and delivered about
229,000 women 25 to 54 GRPs, an average of over six exposures per day. Reflecting the difference in efficiency between the venues, network received 52 percent of the dollars and 43 percent of the GRPs. Cable received 35 percent of the money but delivered 47 percent of the weight. The balance went into syndication.
GRPs were concentrated in day and prime time. The following shows the percent of women 25 to 54 points by daypart for the average brand. Cable’s greater dispersion reflects the practice of ordering spots as run-of-schedule. Syndication is not reported by daypart.
Weight was almost evenly split between 15-second and 30-second units, with not much difference among the three national TV venues. This represents heavier use of 15s than overall television, where about a third of weight is in 15s. There was virtually no use of other unit lengths.
Weight was scheduled throughout the year, but January and February were the heaviest. The following table indexes monthly media weight to the annual average.
One final note. This report takes a macro look at the practices of food advertisers. The average brand was examined without any indication of what worked and what didn’t, and without any recognition of the obvious differences between various food products. Successful brands were lumped together with those that just spent their budget and were gone. Planners should focus on the media practices of the brands in a particular category that are most relevant to their needs. But, hopefully, this information provides a benchmark against which to compare a particular media plan.
Roger Baron is senior VP, media research director, FCB/Chicago.