Having gone to college in the frigid Hudson Valley made me appreciate the spring and summer months that much more. That meant wearing shorts to class in April when the temperature was a balmy 58 degrees, or having a party in the park around a bonfire. Whatever the case, the months of May, June, and July were precious to us Upstaters.
Direct marketers also treat these months as precious. There are plenty of moments in May, June, and July when people are watching new television programming, the cost of inventory is lower than usual, and the beginning of the third quarter brings higher response levels. The three spring and summer months have more to offer than good weather.
May is a mixed bag when it comes to advertising. Broadcasters roll out their final first runs of the season starting in the second and third weeks of the month, and the major networks often bank on season-ending cliffhangers to draw some of their biggest numbers of the year. Direct response marketers hope that the networks can make good on their upfront promises once they roll out the finales, so that inventory and audience deficiency units (ADUs) won’t get eaten up by Memorial Day, the unofficial first weekend of summer.
May also includes plenty of high- profile programming to bring in droves of viewers. In sports, the NBA and NHL playoffs are going strong, and the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, runs May 21. Mother’s Day on May 8 has already allowed companies dealing in candy and flowers to cash in.
June holds the official start of the summer, and with it, a bit of a downward swing for DR advertisers. There aren’t many first-run programs available, and the rising temperatures entice viewers to ignore their TVs and devices in favor of outdoor activities. Next to the two weeks leading up to the IRS tax deadline, response typically hits its lowest point of the year.
With Father’s Day on the third Sunday of the month, retailers and stores can push consumers a little harder in the media, whether it’s television, print, radio, or the Web. Programming highlights again revolve mainly around sports, with the NBA and NHL finals ending this month. Baseball, too, is in full swing as the season reaches its midpoint. And for those who aren’t interested in sports, the Tony Awards hit CBS on June 12 with Late, Late Show host James Corden emceeing. Will there be karaoke?
The start of the third quarter on July 1 usually brings with it hot weather, higher response, and lower costs. Things may change a bit in the advertising world this year, however. For those advertising locally, inventory will be scarce as political campaigns take shape.
Another potential roadblock? The Summer Olympics are just one short month away. NBC Universal is forecasting a huge influx of ad dollars during the Rio games, and with so much of its inventory wrapped up for the two-and-a-half week stint in August, advertisers may wish to move their money to another spot on the TV dial or calendar.
For this reason, Discovery Channel wisely moved Shark Week—a steadily growing viewership winner—to the beginning of July. This not only increases the chances that Discovery will see another uptick in viewers, but also gives advertisers a chance to be seen alongside premium programming without going up against the Olympics.
With the exception of the electioneering and Olympic ad dollars, the summer months shouldn’t be much different from any other year. The warm weather will push people outdoors, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will boost spending at retail, and sports will take a front seat in programming. But the cold winter months will be back before you know it.
Eddie Wilders is senior vice president of research and analytics of Lockard & Wechsler Direct in Irvington, N.Y.
The above originally appeared as the “Smart Buy” column in the May-June issue of ER magazine.