If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re not heading back to school this fall. Well, maybe for a graduate degree of some sort, but that’s not real back-to-school. I’m talking about the back-to-school feeling in which notebooks and pencils have never looked so good and you fantasize about all of the opportunities that the new you will find in a fresh school year.
Advertisers play to this emotion and tease adult nostalgia during this period like no other. Some cynics might even argue advertisers plant this feeling! Regardless, the back to school period is a very important time of the year for advertisers, specifically retailers. It signals the beginning of a steady spend ramp through the holidays and it’s clearly proved to offer a good return on advertiser investment.
The chart above depicts retailer spend through Index Exchange, month by month, from January 2015 to August 2016. Based on based trends, we’ve found the strongest month of the back to school season for ad spend is not July or August, but instead, September. Last year, September was the fourth strongest month in the exchange, after December, November, and October.
Though we’ll have to see what happens in September, the back to school period is definitely afoot and we’re defining it broadly as August and September. August 2016’s spend was 102% higher than August 2015’s, so we expect a major influx of retailer spend during the month of September. September 2015 had 38% more spend than August 2015.
Consumer Electronics Find New Spend Hotspot in August
For the first half of the back to school period, we looked at all retailers in four different categories: consumer electronics, house and home, apparel and footwear, and stores.
- Consumer electronics topped August 2016 … But not August 2015. Last year, apparel and footwear dominated in August, followed by consumer electronics. Consumer electronics top position in August 2016 is likely driven by computer and tablet ads, and not just geared toward college kids, either.
- … with a 151% increase over last August. August wasn’t always a big month for consumer electronics, last year, it was September where we saw most of these brands spend. There could be a changing macro-advertising strategy afoot as device ownership populations become broader.
- CPMs varied widely by category. Interestingly, the smallest spender of the bunch, ‘stores’, had the highest average clear price during the month of August. Brands that fit into this category include Target, Walmart, and Amazon, for example. The lowest average clear price went to apparel and footwear. Consumer electronics was squarely in between the two poles.
Lenovo, Samsung, and HP Lead the Way
Why did consumer electronics have such a big August? Likely because of all of its behemoths that landed in the top ten August retailers (by spend). Lenovo, Samsung, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard are all present.
And guess which of these brands had the highest average clear prices? Lenovo, Samsung, and Hewlett-Packard, respectively. Microsoft had the lowest of the bunch and bought the most impressions.
Two Units Newly En Vogue for Retailers This Year
So, where did all of this spend go? To ad space, of course! Above you’ll find the five most popular units for retailers during the first half of the back to school period, this year and last (August 2015 and August 2016).
- Each unit’s average clear price rose at least 30%. Programmatic continues its race upwards! The average clear price retailers spent on each of these units was higher this month than in August 2015. The 300×600 rose the most, 89%, followed by the mobile web’s 320×50, which increased 59%.
- The units with the highest clear prices had the most increased spend. The increased appetite for the 300×600 and 320×50 was tremendous. Advertisers spent 322% more on the 300×600 and 463% more on the mobile web unit in August 2016. That suggests perhaps an increase of supply, but also new appetites for units. The fact that one of these is mobile is telling, too. More advertisers are trying to reach back to school consumers via mobile devices.