Written by Emma Vetriano • Published 14th October 2011

We have known for quite some time that the way in which consumers are targeted by advertisers has changed in recent years. The traditional media have been hit hard by advances online, with many brands cutting their above-the-line spend accordingly. But TV advertising has been somewhat constant, or at least the format has remained relatively unchanged; until now that is.

The golden rule for advertising agencies has always been that audiences need to see something 15 times for it to sink in. But the rulebook has been well and truly ripped up by a new breed of advertisement and it follows the online example that content is king.  Social media is set to play a huge part in television advertising of the future, with advertisers not only linking their campaigns to online content, but also taking their lead from online audiences.

Image AVIVA

Image Courtesy of Aviva PLC, flickr.com

There have been two great examples of both this weekend: Insurance company Aviva’s sponsorship of the hugely popular ITV show Downton Abbey saw them run their own dramatic storyline of a motorcycle accident in between segments of the first episode in the series. Content is king, right? Wrong. Aviva made a massive gaffe with their approach as the content wasn’t in keeping with the tone of the show and the audience found it both distracting and in poor taste. The British public took to Twitter to complain, with hundreds of thousands commenting on the topic. But although Aviva got it horribly wrong in the first place, they deserve great credit for listening to their audience and reacting quickly with a swift re-edit for the following week’s episode. Power to the tweeple.

While Aviva got it wrong, organic yoghurt producer Yeo Valley got it absolutely spot on. During a commercial break on Saturday night’s X Factor Yeo Valley’s own boy-band ‘The Churned’ burst out of a barn singing to 13 million people. Their debut became a viral sensation, becoming the biggest trending topic on Twitter worldwide, and amassing over 170,000 views on the brand’s YouTube channel, rebranded ‘YeoTube‘. The song went straight into the iTunes chart at number 31!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTrG7mpb61U]

But Yeo Valley haven’t stopped there, they have supported the campaign with activity on Facebook, with a tab giving fans the chance to sing along with ‘The Churned’ and have their efforts judged, with the winner appearing in the Yeo Valley ad that runs during the X Factor final.

The relationship between television advertising and social media is paramount, and as these examples show, it works both ways.

Of course, there is a risk in producing an advert designed specifically to run in one very specific and expensive point in the advertising schedule and for a brand like Yeo Valley, it would mean gambling much of its annual advertising budget. But engaging with audiences in this way can generate a much higher retention. Advertising Consultant Paul Thomas describes it as “sending up a flare” that ensures millions see the launch ad and the content can subsequently be used online, safe in the knowledge it is likely to be recognised.

The model has worked with great success in America, who as usual have led the way. Specially created adverts for major sporting events like the Super Bowl have had huge success across the states. Now that model is being replicated in the UK, thanks largely to the revival of ‘event’ television on ITV1. Guinness sent up a similar ‘flare’ during the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals this weekend, with their rugby themed advert.

Of course, in a world where many viewers have the power to fast forward the adverts simply by watching their favourite shows a little later, this concept won’t work with every advert. But the combination of the right event, a bright idea and a social media campaign to compliment it could deliver huge results.