X-factor advertising, or how to blow half a million pounds

In the UK we spend a metric shed load of money or to be more accurate £1.6bn in the first 6 months of 2009 advertising on TV.

This weekend is the final of x-factor (similar to American Idol), which is expected to attract an audience of 19 million people. Analysts are predicting the price of advertising slots to reach £250,000, which is over £8000 per second. (Check out that url by the way - WTF).


The 19million audience or the £250,000 advertising cost is nothing in comparison with the rate card for the superbowl where a 30 second slot will set you back $2.7 million. The last superbowl attracted 148 million viewers.

The £250,000 cost ignores any production costs. ITV suggest that you spend roughly 10-15% of your TV media budget on production costs, estimating that for most people it will end up costing between £2000 and £1million.

I've always been intrigued as to how effective TV advertising is. When we have recorded something (which we do more and more with V+) my wife and I compete to see who can fast forward the adverts at the highest speed possible without missing any of the "good" TV. Its probably a bad time to point out that we also watched last weeks X-factor results show, and by clever use of the fast forward button we condensed the hour long show into under 10 minutes of viewing.

Despite the fact that the first 6 months of this year was the first where Internet marketing spend was more than TV spend it still feels like the big brands haven't really grasped the full power of internet marketing. As if to prove my point only yesterday Ian Lurie challenges Target to fix some of their SEO challenges. Yeah I know Target is US, and I'm talking about the UK, my point still stands. Bite me.

Just for kicks, lets take a look at what we could if we redirected some of that TV advertising spend for the X-factor final to an online campaign. To get a sensible figure, I'm going to assume that someone spends £250,000 to produce an advert (which I suspect is low for the adverts that will be aired), and that they only take 1 30 second slot at £250,000 (which is also going to be low). This gives me a nice £500,000 or a cool half a million pounds to play with.

Lets imagine we are aiming to sell more digital cameras, and have decided that rather than producing our latest advert with its rabbit balloon and cartoon no entry sign, we will pump the half million into advertising in one of the following ways.

Picture 2

Incidentally, it took me a good half hour of searching to find this advert. Finally, thanks to a combination of Yahoo! answers and random clicking through TV advert sites, I finally found out that the camera in question is a Panasonic Lumix G1. None of my brilliantly constructed "digital camera rabbit balloon advert" searches came good. One of these days I swear a big brand will crack all of this cross channel advertising stuff. The fact that there are two questions on Yahoo answers asking about the rabbit balloon shows that people are interested, but are struggling to find the camera. That's potential customers struggling to buy your product..

So with my mini rant out of the way, lets look at alternative ways to spend £500,000 to sell more digital cameras.

Option 1 - Put it all into adwords.

It's not, big, clever or sexy, but darn it can be effective. Lets take the most basic, adwords account possible, and simply exact match on digital camera. The keyword tool gives the Estimated Average Cost Per Click at £1.01. This means you can give your hard earned half million and give it to Google and in return you will get just over 495,000 visitors looking for digital cameras. If we can convert 2% of our visitors into camera sales, we will have just under 10 thousand new customers, and at over £400 per camera that's over £million pounds of revenue. Not to bad really.

Option 2 - Run a competition

Remember a while ago, when twitter went crazy because Moonfruit were giving away 10 macs. 10 macs would set you back roughly 10 grand. We have 500 grand to play with so this should be a piece of cake...

Imagine if we took our half a million pound budget and pumped it into a big competition. If growing a marketing list is important, then what better way than a mass give away. How about signup to our email list and get a free camera, or free extra lens, or 50% off, or [insert something of value here]. I'm not even going to guess at metrics, but I'd put money on being able to make a splash with a budget of half a million pounds.

P.S. Thanks to Andy Beal, swerveball and Fearless_Shultz (who also pointed out twitter pulled moonfruit from the trending topics)

Option 3 - Create a viral thingy-ma-jig

A year or so ago, teh internets (which I think is what the cool kids call it these days) was awash with a video promoting TFL's cycle awareness campaign. You probably remember it better as the moonwalking bear. According to Viralblog the budget for this was £250000, which is handy because that means we can have 2 hugely successful viral campaigns for our half a million budget.

I know that you can't make a viral, and you can't guarantee success but if you can't make some noise with half a million pounds then you probably haven't got much hope anyway!

So next, time you have a spare half a million and are thinking about a spot of TV advertising, why not take a step back and see what other options are available. Time has run out and I didn't even really scratch the surface of what you could do.

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About the author
Duncan Morris

Duncan Morris

Duncan founded Distilled with Will in 2005. Duncan was CEO of Distilled for just over 5 years before he handed the reins to Will in 2014. Duncan is now Chairman, a non-executive role that, amongst...   read more