London Live: the agency view

Dino Myers-Lamptey, head of strategy at the7stars, provides a revealing take on the challenges London Live faces in attracting advertisers.

Dino Myers-Lamptey: 'London Live is not an easy challenge, but an exciting one'
Dino Myers-Lamptey: 'London Live is not an easy challenge, but an exciting one'

As the Scots confuse us all about the economic merits of separation, London is about to get even more local for Londoners, with the launch of London Live.

ESI media will be launching their new baby the day after Mother’s Day, on the very attractive Channel 8 on Freeview (Sky 117, Virgin 159), and will be hoping to appeal to upmarket, young professional ‘social explorers’ in the capital.

London Live is set to be more than just a TV channel, and rather a platform across multiple media, including live streams online, on-demand on digital devices and out-of-home distribution on taxis and in train stations.

The content aims to give Londoners a voice, supporting fresh talent and bringing back some of the tried and tested successful ‘London based’ drama and comedy shows, such as Peep Show and Misfits. They’ll also show exclusives from the great things that emerge on the web, and wait for it, the real world! Yes, ‘Live in London’ will tap into the wealth of content generated every minute by performing Londoners and its visitors.

An achievable 'low' target can bring problems

With the backing of the Evening Standard, their target viewing share of 1% (3-400k individuals) on an average day of the London commercial audience would seem nearly impossible not to reach. To put that into perspective on an average night they’d be ranked around 15th in terms of All Adult London viewing, just behind Sky News and above 5USA, but an easily achievable ‘low’ target can also bring problems for advertisers.

Unreliable data

Firstly, the data at this level could be seen to be unreliable. With approximately 653 BARB viewing boxes in London, a 1% share would be determined by just 7 households tuning in on average throughout the day. A number so small it seems destined for wild variations, which could make it very difficult for setting planning expectations. 

Also this is a number that is achieved throughout the day, when you get down to single spot you’ll be looking at connecting to around 15k individuals in any given ad break, a number that could of course vary hugely and thus be very difficult to plan and buy reliably.  The current systems are not designed to measure such niche propositions.

Local businesses could be priced out

Secondly, while the audience size will make it small enough to attract many local businesses as the overall media cost is reduced, the cost of entry in making ‘effective TV ads’ will be prohibitive for most. The fear will be that local advertisers will be attracted by the lower media cost of access, though will look to make it affordable by reducing their TV production cost, and as a result the channel is in danger of drowning out the odd good advert with the many bad ones. Local radio is the unfortunate case study for this.

A 1% share might feel like 1%

Lastly, while the numbers will be used to justify and adjust accordingly, smarter buyers will recognise that the value of each ‘impact’ is not the same. The beauty and advantage of TV has always been in reaching and engaging with large audiences quickly. London Live will have the challenge of 1% share very much feeling like 1%, not significant, or impactful.

You see, reaching the right people without wastage is a better way, however the ‘impact’ of the impacts needs to be considered, for advertising is an art of persuasion, for which there is a power in scale and social belief – it’s why we care about share of voice. Being just a 1% player means your ability to influence enough people to see sways in behaviour becomes that more difficult and this will be their challenge.

Not an easy challenge, but an exciting one

On the more positive note, they are making a concerted effort to involve brands more in the ‘content’ itself and are looking at more novel ways to fund programming, and to keep the quality high. 

These kinds of opportunities, if the price is right are attractive to brands, if not only to use as a testing base before going national.  ESI’s model is the right one for keeping cost low and making the channel profitable, however its success will be determined by the detailed accountability that brands will be using to justify their London Live strategy. 

Putting more emphasis on the opportunities within content can take the pressure off brands to create good ads that can withstand the test of time and potential over exposure to certain audiences, but it will require a lot of work and collaboration from many different parts of their business, and ours. Not an easy challenge, but an exciting one.

Dino Myers-Lamptey is head of strategy at the7stars

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