So, the fifth series of the ever popular Downton Abbey is now on its second episode. Did you watch it? Did you watch live or did you catch up? Did you avoid the spoilers? Over the past few years the show has gained a huge following and caused a number of shocks, whose waves are felt over social media. These days, to avoid the spoilers, you almost have to watch Downton live.

Downton Abbey is no exception, following a summer of blockbuster TV ‘events’ such as the World Cup, Great British Bake Off and regulars such as EastEnders and X Factor. These now make up a small subset of shows you “have to watch live” on linear TV.

The majority of viewers now catch up on at least some of their programmes on catch-up TV (according to Thinkbox, the average TV viewer watches 6 half hour programmes a month on catch up). Add YouTube and services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, who are between them creating increasing amounts of new content, to the mix, and it quickly becomes clear that the TV viewer has more options than ever. This creates a huge series of opportunities for the advertiser.

We have bucketed these opportunities into Audience, Format, and Content. It is not only important for the brand to fully understand the available options, but to understand how differences in delivery can be measured.

Audience: who is watching VOD?

The traditional use case for using VOD alongside TV to extend reach, increase frequency and target younger viewers is still valid. However, in the last 18 months the profile of consumer watching VOD has changed. The proliferation of tablets, smart TVs and smartphones and the increasing usability of VOD apps means the user base is growing.

In the early development stage the user base was mostly young, early adopters; now it is much broader. According to Ofcom, half of all UK adults now use video-on-demand services1. VOD is still a good space to attract the hard-to-reach 16-24s, but, depending which programmes are targeted, it can be a great place to target other parts of the audience mix.

Format: increased engagement?

The rise of the internet has gone hand in hand with a rise in consumers wanting everything for free – and crucially, not wanting to be advertised to. According to research conducted by by MetrixLab2, 94% of all YouTube pre-roll ads are skipped. How brands deal with this is a hot topic in the VOD world. One clever example is from VW, who skip the advert for the consumer, in a creative that’s clever and memorable. 

In the catch-up world, different types of interaction are being created and tested to boost user engagement. This could go from clickable video (with the video becoming a hyperlink to the brand’s website), to ad bloom (where the video is embedded within a microsite – and ad weather (where the content depends on the weather in the viewer’s area)3.

Whether these options are viable depends on budget and messaging. But in an increasingly cluttered market, engagement is key, and anything that increases this can only be a good thing – as long as the benefits outweigh the costs.

Content: addressable is king?

There comes a point where targeting and interaction link: addressable content. Here is where the copy depends on the person watching the ad. Complicated algorithms are able to deliver different copies to different people watching the same programme. It has been trialled by Sky and is utilised by YouTube.

A lot of insiders believe this to be the future of advertising. It has the ability to cut out clutter. If I just happen to be watching TOWIE and see half a dozen cosmetics adverts, the money these companies are spending is wasted. If ITV know what I’m more interested in, there’s no waste.

But like interaction, it is expensive. Whether it is worth it depends on a number of factors. Our job as marketing effectiveness consultants is to make sense of a client’s spend to assess whether any additional money spent is effective, be it in interactive copies, more targeted messages, or addressable content.

Best practice

Best practice will depend on your brand. It will depend on your target market, the creative, the messaging, the proposition, whether you’re online or offline or both. We strive to find the right solution to our clients’ questions, and our tailor-made methodology and unbiased view of marketing and media will always secure this.

However, as VOD use rises, and the options for advertisers grow, it will become an increasingly attractive option for media planners. If you’re a large insurance firm who wants to reach those hard-to-target parts of your mix; if you’re an online retailer selling a specific range, where advertising on YouTube means you can target super-specifically at relatively low cost; if you’re an FMCG brand who wants to sell a new product to a younger audience; if you’re any of these then VOD is likely to be an effective solution.

Planning a VOD campaign requires a number of considerations: do I run the activity on its own or alongside TV, Social, or other media channels? At what time of year do I run the activity? What weight of spend should I put behind it? What data is available to measure success? Each situation is unique, but at Gain Theory we can help you answer these questions and more, in order to help you plan and measure success of you latest VOD campaign.




3.     For more info on VOD ad types, please see the deepen section of thinkbox’s guide to VOD:


Find out how we can help, demo our products and get more information about our global cross-sector experience.


If you think you have what it takes to make a difference at Gain Theory, please check out our careers page.
© Gain Theory 2022. All rights reserved.