What Happens When Brands Go Dark?
By Millward Brown
With marketing budgets always under pressure, advertisers may be tempted to eliminate TV advertising. We have observed that brands can indeed “go dark” for six months or so with little deleterious effect. However, longer periods off-air are likely to weaken brand health, and once decline sets in, it may be hard to reverse. Supporting a brand in other media may provide some protection in the absence of TV, but overall, the best way to ensure long-term brand health is to maintain levels of spend.Coming Off Air: The Consequences
When a company’s short-term profitability is suffering, the marketing budget is usually the first to be cut. But what are the consequences? Analysis of our tracking database shows that brand health may become vulnerable when a brand stops advertising on TV. However, when the time off-air is six months or less, the effects are minimal. In 40 percent of these cases, brand health measures are not affected. However, bigger brands are more likely to suffer a decline than smaller brands.
Longer periods off-air are much more likely to be damaging. A good example comes from the UK insurance market. A regular and reasonably heavy advertiser, this insurance company came off-air, with only one subsequent burst two years later. Consideration levels plummeted over the next few years.Maintaining Equity Through Other Marketing Activity
But a disastrous decline is not inevitable. We know that advertising in one medium can evoke memories of advertising for the same brand in other media (the “media multiplier effect”), so moving spend to another media channel may help to maintain brand equity. Using a less expensive medium such as radio to trigger memories of TV advertising can be a useful way to extend the life of a TV campaign. (Note: this technique will become less effective over time as memories of the TV activity fade.) As the following chart shows, if communication awareness levels (TBCA) are maintained in the absence of TV, brand health measures hold up better.
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