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TV ads increase app installs by 74%, report says

A new report has found that television commercials are great at convincing people to download mobile apps — provided they show at the right time, send the right message, and don’t repeat every time people turn on their televisions.

Fetch, the company behind this report, discovered this connection between commercials and app installs by gathering data about when their clients aired television spots and how  the rate at which people installed apps was affected. (A baseline was established by looking at installs five minutes before an ad aired.) The company wouldn’t identify studied apps due to confidentiality agreements.

Fetch said app installs rose between 56 and 74 percent when commercials aired, depending on how many times the ad was seen. This shows that “TV advertising can be the final tipping point to push potential app users to progress into their journeys to becoming app customers,” Fetch said, “because we’ve targeted the audience at precisely the time that they are more prone to installing the app.”

The company is referring to people’s habits of holding a smartphone or tablet in their hands while a television set operates in the background. Some companies have tried to take advantage of this trend by offering “second screen” apps that augment television viewing instead of hindering it; others use the giant screens to make people aware of apps they can download on the devices in their hands.

The effectiveness of television spots depends on several factors. First is when the commercials show: Fetch found that app installs rose 650 percent after ads were shown between midnight and 1am; a similar bump was seen during prime time between 6pm and 7pm. Frequency also mattered — people were most likely to download an app if they saw a commercial for it at least four times in two hours.

It’s not just that commercials drive app installs, either — these new users can also be quite valuable to developers. “For most app businesses, organic users are the highest value customers to the business,” Fetch’s head of data, Dan Wilson, said in an email. “Users acquired through TV tend to be closer to the organic users in average value than users acquired through paid mobile media channels.”

There are some drawbacks to the report. Many increases are expressed as percentages, which as I explained when Amazon touted its holiday shopping successes, don’t mean as much when people aren’t told the starting figure. It’s also not clear if these results would hold true for all businesses, or if there’s something about Fetch’s clients that makes them more likely to benefit here.

Wilson cited agreements requiring Fetch to keep company data anonymous when asked about specific companies’ increases following television spots. He did say that FetchMe, the tool used to conduct this study, is used to monitor more than 1 billion interactions each month across 100 countries. So at least we know this didn’t affect just a handful of companies during a short period of time.

People see advertisements all the time. But apparently there’s something about television sets that makes people care more about seeing an app there than they might if they saw it on a social network or in a banner ad shown on a Web page. Using a phone might not improve the television viewing experience, but having the television set provide background noise can apparently help app discovery.

What a weird world.

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