Primetime in the online TV world?

Forget the living room. Television is now accessible while you’re, say, riding the Metro into work, when you sit down at your desk (during your lunch break, of course), or while you’re waiting in line at the bank.

There’s really no time during the day, as long as you have a Smartphone or tablet, that you can’t access online video. So what’s all this talk about dayparting digital into primetime segments like regular TV, and does it really make sense? Let’s take a closer look.

Traditionally, TV ad time is purchased by dayparts, which are priced by when a defined target audience has the highest viewership. The majority of American adults typically watch TV during the primetime hours -- 7:00 -10:00 p.m. on weeknights -- so naturally those time slots are more expensive. Overnight programming, when Richard Simmons is demoing his latest fad workout, tend to be the cheapest spots.

It makes sense for campaigns to purchase TV spots during dayparts where there’s potential for the most viewers. Still, a spot will air whether there's a large audience watching or not. But do the same rules apply across the online video landscape?

There’s no doubt that online video consumption is growing exponentially. Comscore reported earlier this year that 181 million Internet users watched 40 billion videos online in the United States alone. A Mediapost blog argues that online video is most effective when there is the largest and most engaged audience, notably 8:00 -10:00 a.m. I disagree. I don’t believe that because more people are watching there’s a good enough argument for more intense engagement. What I don’t disagree with is the effectiveness of an “engaged” audience. Of course you want to reach a voter or consumer with your ad when they’re engaged in the content they’re watching. But what makes them more engaged that early in the morning?

The whole reason I value online advertising is because it allows you to target the exact audience you want, anytime of day, when they’re interacting with content on the web.  Because of the sophistication of targeting of online video -- or any other online ad type -- time of day doesn’t matter. Moreover, time of day doesn’t have anything to do with worthwhile message exposure. We buy online video by 1,000 impressions. Of these 1,000 impressions 100 percent will reach people who fall within the targeting defined at the beginning of your ad campaign. 

Unlike TV, the impressions you purchase, if you’re using a quality online partner, are only going to show to those people you’re looking to target. Running your online ad messages whether or not it’s a “primetime” viewing time is irrelevant in my opinion. By dayparting online you could be missing out on quality impressions to a consumer that you want to be targeting, who might just have different viewing habits from online “primetime” norms. 

A version of this post was also published on Smart Media Group’s blog, Smart Blog.


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