Don’t Fall For TV TARP Trickery

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Posted by luke on

The world of TV advertising can be pretty glamourous. So much so that even during the Superbowl, the ads are a spectacle that is practically a side show to the main event. However, this world is as confusing as it is exciting and if you don’t understand it, you can end up getting duped.

An Offer Too Good To Be True

I recall seeing an ad from an advertising company that promised “TV Campaigns for 20k”. This included the production of the TV ad and a heap of spots.

It seemed a little too good to be true.

To understand why that offer was not at all what it seemed, you need to understand how TV advertising works. Specifically, what a TARP is and how it relates to the effectiveness of your ad.

Advertisers Want Eyes

When a TV station sells its airtime to advertisers, they’re essentially selling the eyes of their viewers. The way that they get their viewers is through producing content that people want to watch.

Now obviously some TV shows are way more successful than others. The AFL Grand Final achieved 6.5 million viewers last year, compared to NCIS which got about 50,000 viewers on the same night.

TV stations are well aware of variations in the viewership of different shows, so they created a system to quantify them for advertisers. This is the TARP system.

The TARP Truth

TARP stands for ‘Target Audience Rating Point’ and is represented by a number between 0 and 100. The number refers to the percentage of a target market that views a given program.

For example, let’s say the target market you’re after are women aged 25-39. If we look at a show like ‘The Bachelor’, which has a TARP of 25, we can now assume that 25% of women aged 25-39 watch The Bachelor.

As you’d imagine, TV stations will charge higher advertising rates for shows with higher TARPs. In order to cater to people with more modest budgets, sometimes they will try to sell a bunch of shows with smaller TARPs. For example, they may sell you 5 spots, each with a TARP of 5.

Not All TARPS Are Created Equal

In the TARP world, 5x5 does not equal 25.

That’s because the 25% of 25-39 year old women who watch The Bachelor are all different viewers, meaning there’s no overlap. However the 5 shows who have 5% of 25-39 year old women may have a lot of overlap between viewers, meaning that some of the same people may be watching all five shows.

If you’ve been running a low-TARP campaign, this could be your issue.

This overlap has a huge effect on the reach of your ad and you wouldn’t even know it.

The Right Approach

You should be clear on who you want to be targeting. This is something you should really discuss with a strategy or media person from an advertising agency who can use their past experience to guide you. It’s important to get this right in the beginning phase of your campaign, or the rest of your efforts will simply push you further from your goals.

Once you’ve identified your target market (let’s say, men aged 25-54) you should then create a media plan for TV that targets this market using high-TARP shows.

The best way to do this is by consulting an advertising agency or a media-buying agency that can get the best prices from the TV stations on your behalf. This is because they can get you rates that you wouldn’t be able to get yourself and they will be helping you get spots that are actually going to help your campaign succeed.

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