Reflections from Balderton portfolio Above The Line Marketing event

Rob Moffat
May 22, 2015 · 3 min read

May 2015

On Tuesday Balderton hosted CMOs from our portfolio of 50+ tech startups for a discussion on Above The Line marketing. Many of our companies have built world-class direct response advertising on Google, Facebook and other online channels, but are still at an early stage in brand/offline advertising. Following on from a more general marketing event we ran in January, ATL was the topic that most of our CMOs wanted to go into in more depth.

We were lucky enough to secure guest speakers who were behind three of the biggest brands to emerge in the UK over the last 5 years:

  • Darryl Bowman, CMO of Wonga
  • Charlotte Harper, formerly Group Marketing Director of Zoopla, now a partner at Squadron Venture Media
  • Andrew Ground, formerly CCO of Lovefilm, now founder of Tutorfair

Discussions carried on late into the evening and I cannot hope to capture all of the content that was covered, but I did think it was worth sharing a few useful snippets. The discussion centred around TV, as the most obvious ATL channel for startups, but also touched on other areas.

Insights below, in slightly random order and under Chatham house rules:

TV advertising for startups

  • If you are a startup, make sure your product is the story of your TV ads. Most TV creative agencies spend their time making distinctive/funny ads to perk up undifferentiated mainstream brands, and will try to do the same for you. If you have a distinctive new product you don’t need this.
  • Don’t be afraid to be brash: say your brand several times and leave your logo up for at least 3 seconds at the end of the ad. Webuyanycar is an example of successfully taking this to the extreme.
  • Buy cheap: digital and satellite channels, daytime, January not September.
  • This Travelocity ad was put together on a ~$100K budget and performed so well that they chose to run it during the Superbowl.
  • £250K should be enough to test TV (all in including creative, buying and media), and show a measurable impact on sales.
  • Measuring the impact of TV: start with simple assumptions on baseline and uplift. As you scale up worth investing in econometric models.
  • Some debate on optimum length of TV ads, depends on how simple your proposition is to get across. Opinions ranged from 10 seconds to 30 seconds as the optimum length.
  • Another topic of debate was the merits of doing a regional TV test prior to going national. Allows A-B testing vs. the regions where you are not advertising, but downside is that it is often more expensive per view.
  • Multiple recommendations for TVsquared for analysing the impact of TV campaigns.
  • General cynicism around the concept of ‘creative testing’. Best to just use your team’s assessment of whether the ad cuts through and is memorable, then to A-B test ads in the field
  • TV ads don’t work for every business. They tend to work better for products that are mass-market, creating new categories and that are easy to understand.

Other above the line channels

  • One well known brand found that outdoor advertising was transformative for their business. TV drove brand awareness, but outdoor drove usage. Others were more circumspect on the impact of outdoor, mixed experience overall
  • No-one in the room had made radio ads work for them
  • Direct Mail (linked to special offer) can still be very effective, has much better response rates than email. Can track response with unique codes, but there is a danger of over-attributing. Full econometric analysis normally shows it to have a smaller impact.
  • Sports sponsorships at full price rarely make sense for a startup as too complex to manage and too costly to fully activate. Worth being alert for last minute offers at a big discount, which can make sense. TV sponsorships are also one to be cautious about, as your time on screen is so limited

Anyone who was there and would like to add this, please do so!

And thank you again to our speakers and all who contributed to the discussion

Growth Hacking, Marketing and Venture Capital

Notes as I scratch the surface of three nascent & hard industries

Rob Moffat

Written by

Partner at Balderton Capital in London. Companies I work with here include Carwow, Wooga, Cleo, Mojiworks, Zego, Dinghy, PKB, Prodigy. Formerly Google & Bain.

Growth Hacking, Marketing and Venture Capital

Notes as I scratch the surface of three nascent & hard industries