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Kevin Krim October 17, 2023 3 min read

Just starting to plan your holiday TV campaign? You’re already behind.

Think about it: When buying holiday gifts for loved ones, you don't show up to a Black Friday sale and hope the right present jumps out at you. Well, sometimes we do that…but we know we shouldn’t. That's not how thoughtful gifting works. Instead, you spend time with that person month in and month out, building the relationship that will make your gift special. Over time, you learn their likes and dislikes until you identify the perfect present.

The same goes for holiday advertising on TV. If you wait until Black Friday to start engaging your target customers, you’re going to wind up with two big problems. 

For starters, you won’t have built up the brand and demand necessary to drive engagement and sales during the holiday rush. After all, you can’t capture holiday-season demand if you haven’t invested in building that demand throughout the year. In fact, data from the recently-released 2023 EDO Holiday TV Outcomes Report finds that advertisers in a number of categories actually generate higher engagement prior to the traditional holiday season than they do during the Black Friday-to-Christmas Day rush.

The other big problem with a last-minute marketing blitz is that you don’t know which ads are most likely to resonate with consumers —  or which networks, programs, dayparts, and programming are most likely to generate the engagement you need to move the consumer from mere awareness to consideration and conversion.

Instead of guessing what the customer wants and when they want it, advertisers should spend the year building an always-on feedback loop to optimize their campaigns with real-time data.  By doing so, you’ll be able to build demand while collecting valuable TV intel that enables you to run the most effective possible ads during crunch time.

Let your scatter sleigh — with performance data

Data-driven TV advertising is important to getting the holidays right in any year. But it's particularly important this year. 

Due to a tough economy and a pair of Hollywood strikes, advertisers held back some of their upfront TV ad spend, and media companies saw a decline in purchasing volume for the first time since the pandemic. Now, many advertisers are going into the holiday season looking to spend their budgets in the scatter market, buying and selling ads closer to air date and for a higher price than they would have if they’d bought in advance.

This uncertainty might read like a recipe for misplaced ad spend, but it’s actually giving advertisers a chance to switch tacks and optimize their performance. As noted earlier, data from the 2023 EDO Holiday TV Outcomes Report shows that advertisers are finding strong engagement prior to the traditional holiday season, when they face less competition on the airwaves from their rivals. 

By looking at past performance at the brand and category levels, advertisers can identify the moments that enable them to drive searches,  site visits, and consumer demand before the holiday season even starts.

Brands are finding holiday performance earlier than you’d think

Indeed, the most effective brand advertisers aren’t waiting for the post-Thanksgiving rush — they’re learning about their customers and timing their ads to engage them most effectively all year long.

Data from EDO’s Holiday Outcomes Report shows that jewelry shoppers and gifters are on the hunt for sparkly gifts long before the Christmas rush. Brands in this category were 6% more likely to inspire engagement on a per-person, per-second basis in mid-October 2022 than they were during the rest of Q4.  And that’s at a time when category competitors ran about three times fewer ads than they did in November and December.

We found similar trends in the Video Games and D2C Clothing categories, evidence that brands in a range of verticals can benefit from connecting with consumers throughout the year and looking for patterns in their advertising performance.

Holiday success requires year-round optimization

If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of feeling like the holiday season starts earlier and earlier every year.  But in the world of TV advertising, an early start to the holiday season really is the best course of action for brands and agencies.

The key for marketers is to learn what works early and often. This way, you can confidently invest your scatter-market budget in the networks, programs, and dayparts that are proven to deliver results for your brand and others in its category.

Just don’t try to sell me on playing Jingle Bells in October — I don’t care what the data says.