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In 2021, online-born businesses invested £1 billion in TV advertising in the UK. They are now the biggest category of advertiser on TV, having increased their investment in TV advertising by 37% since 2019. *

To better understand the boom in online brands on TV, Thinkbox commissioned a new econometric analysis of 10 online businesses that are proven to have used TV advertising to drive their growth (the brands involved in the study are anonymised).

“The TV playbook for online businesses”, the study by business economists Magic Numbers has uncovered vital principles and insights that offer online businesses guidance on when and why to use TV, including:

  • How TV makes online search work harder

  • Three signs it is time for TV

  • What TV-driven impact online businesses can expect

The study also features in-depth, qualitative interviews with marketers who have used TV advertising to drive the growth of online brands, namely Tom Beardmore, Founder, Chamber; Lucas Bergmans, Brand Director, Cazoo; Cheryl Calverley, CEO, eve sleep; Xabi Izaguirre, Marketing Director, Gene; Abba Newberry, CMO, Habito; Chris Seigal, Senior Director, Direct to Consumer, Harry’s; and Simon Wilden, Partner, Goodstuff.

In this study we have unashamedly focussed on online brands that have found success with TV advertising. We did this so that we could learn from them and help other online brands stand on the shoulders of their achievements. Matt Hill, Thinkbox’s Research and Planning Director

TV makes search work harder

The study found that TV advertising drives cheaper online journeys because it prompts people to go to the brand directly or search for the brand specifically rather than just the category. Generic paid search (i.e. Googling the category) costs advertisers more than Brand paid search.

Of the online search journeys initiated by TV advertising in the scope of the study:

  • 66% were direct/URL or organic search visits (which carry no additional cost to the advertiser)

  • 20% were paid brand search clicks (which carry a small search cost)

  • 14% were for paid generic searches (which carry the highest search cost)

Magic Numbers also found that TV makes brands more clickable – it has a positive effect on click-through rates in both organic and paid search. For example, analysis of a furniture retailer in the study revealed that as TV investment continued, so did the click through rate for paid brand search – across 3 years of increasing TV investment focussed on driving traffic, they also saw brand search click rate improve from 37.4% to 38.8%.

Online-born businesses know the importance of marketing. They’ve grown up on search and social and seen in their dashboards just how many sales those channels contribute. But even though many of them are now big, most aren’t yet fully comfortable with big-brand marketing strategies like going on TV. And many haven’t started to use econometrics to measure the effect of marketing that isn’t easily trackable. That journey is important because, without it, marketing can only contribute so much growth. This study provides the blueprint for success. Dr Grace Kite, Founder of Magic Numbers

Three signs it’s time for TV

Magic Numbers have identified three signs that an online brand should consider TV advertising:

1. When a brand needs to scale first and fast

For example, the study features a second-hand online car dealership that reached 500,000 visits per week in five months after scaling up its TV spend. TV drove 48% of all visits across this period.

2. When understanding a brand’s proposition makes people more likely to buy

A home gym equipment business with a brand new proposition used TV to reach 200,000 visits per week at a cost per visit 300 times lower than their hero product’s cost.

3. When a brand runs out of efficient online buys

A dieting brand had a peak weekly web traffic of 111,000 visitors and an average of 23,300 prior to trialing TV. Following their TV launch, the peak rose to 378,000 visitors and the average increased to 99,000 visitors.

Unless you land two or three points that explain our product, you're not really going to get people to come to the website with the right level of intent in the first place. And it's hard to deliver those three messages outside of TV. Lucas Bergmans, Brand Director, Cazoo

TV-driven effects to expect

The study has uncovered a number of effects that online brands can expect from their TV advertising, including:

An immediate, visible response
Across the ten brands modelled, TV drove 42% of all visits, 50 million in total. Individual brand data consistently shows a clear relationship between TV activity and web traffic – and many of the marketers interviewed for the study described enjoying watching the impact on Google Analytics as their TV spots aired.

A TV cost-per-visit comparable to search advertising
Across the ten brands analysed, TV drove 50 million visits at an average cost per visit of £2.11. Six of the ten brands the study modelled had a TV cost-per-visit between £1.90 and £2.50. Generic search costs are hugely variable but a typical cost-per-visit in, for example, gift delivery is £1-£3, and in financial services is £5-£11.

A layer of base sales to rely on and a brand that’s a saleable asset
Brand-focused TV advertising – alongside OOH – was found to have the longest-lasting sales effects with 50% of sales seen in the first 14 weeks following activity and 50% seen in the remaining two years afterwards.

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