A special thanks to our client partner, Rich, for mentioning the concept that inspired this piece for me.
When it comes to cable television, nothing is more coveted than the 8 pm to 11 pm time slot. Aptly named “primetime,” it’s when television executives know the most eyeballs will be focused on the TV. It’s when Monday Night Football starts. It’s when presidential debates air. It’s where talk show legends like Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and David Letterman lived.
Yet, in today’s media landscape, primetime is less and less a defined time. You pop into HBO Max and stream Last Week Tonight with John Oliver whenever is most convenient for your schedule. If you miss an Instagram Livestream, you can kick back and watch it later. Primetime is whenever you say it is: something brands need to remember as they plan media campaigns.
In the on-demand era of consumer choice and preference, staying beholden to antiquated media scheduling can derail a campaign before it begins.
Instead, it’s important to meet customers where they are, by fitting into their lifestyle. There is no primetime. There are no dayparts. The best time is the one the consumer communicates behaviorally: the one that works for them.
Avoid creating an echo chamber
Brands that buy into the traditional media scheduling model will find themselves talking to… themselves. If you can’t be sure that your audience is available, engaged, and interested, you can’t be sure your message is landing.
Your brand’s social feed might be full of posts, but they might be buried down the timeline of consumers who check in after work or before bed. Likewise, your YouTube ad might be seen, but is it timely for when your audience sees it? Carpet-bombing your audience with messaging often isn’t a good measure of effectiveness, either. There’s no quicker way to get consumers to tune you out, turn you off, or unsubscribe.
As much as messaging matters, timing matters just as much. The nature of timing as it relates to media schedule revolves around the consumer. It’s not enough to know when people will be online or tuned-in; you also need to know when they’re most receptive to your message.
Find your fit within the customer’s lifestyle
“Primetime” was originally 8pm to 11pm because it was the time when families settle down for the evening. It was after dinner, before bed: a time when people wanted nothing more than to unwind and be entertained in front of the TV. But that’s based on the traditional 9am to 5pm schedule of a nuclear family.
Today, consumers move at their own pace, independent of any defined group schedule. They consume media where, when, and how they want. It’s a concept called consumer self-scheduling, and it’s one JXM uses to help brands meet customers where (and how) they live. Instead of interrupting the consumer with messaging, their behaviors (both online and offline) allow them to tell us when they’re most interested in hearing from a brand. These cues define the media schedule, and it might deviate significantly across audience, medium, message, and campaign.
These media buying and scheduling decisions need to come from observable customer behavior—not scheduling practices that try to anticipate customer need.
Let consumers set the schedule
Primetime is a different concept across audiences and individual customers. Identifying the optimal time to send a message or execute a campaign means paying attention to the cues consumers give. At JXM, we keep a keen eye out for signals that illuminate where certain messaging fits naturally into the lifestyle of customers.
Identifying consumer self-scheduling habits is a quantitative practice. Does your audience work the traditional 9am to 5pm, or are they a gig worker that makes their own schedule? Are they a 20-year-old who checks Instagram a dozen times each day or a 30-year-old who scrolls their entire feed before bed? Getting to know your audience—their demographic traits, lifestyle habits, routines, and obligations—sheds light on where your brand and message fit, and where they’re most receptive to it. The concept of consumer self-scheduling encourages brands to get to know their audience a little bit better, so they can deliver messaging that’s a little bit more applicable.
At JXM, we let customers set the pace and help brands meet them where they are. Reach out to us today and let’s get your message in front of customers where, when, and how they want to interact with it.