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Advertisers “massively overestimate” TikTok and SVOD consumption


A new study shows that advertisers’ understanding of how much people use TikTok and subscription video services is “massively over-estimated.”

Thinkbox stated that since its first Ad Nation study 10 years ago, media executives have got a better understanding of media consumption, particularly broadcast television, but elsewhere they are lacking.

A decade ago, it explored the differences in media consumption and perception between those who work in media and the average person in the UK.

Its new “Adnormal Behaviour” report has been published to see if this has changed.

The results showed that media professionals were 104% more likely to be users of Instagram, 106% more likely to use Twitter, and 153% more likely to use TikTok than the general UK public (based on claimed use within the last 3 months).

They also claimed to watch 43 minutes less live TV per day than the UK public (1hr, 9 mins vs. 1hr, 52 mins, respectively), but 10 mins more SVOD (1hr, 37 mins vs. 1 hr, 26 mins respectively).

62% of the media professionals surveyed had watched at least 1 episode of Netflix’s Squid Game in the past two years. That compares to 26% of the UK public.   

“Adland’s job is to understand the audience, and this new study shows that we’re heading in a better direction,” said Matt Hill, Thinkbox’s Research and Planning Director.

“Yes, gaps remain – especially in perceptions and use of social media – but by and large adland has an improved grasp of what people are up to, particularly when it comes to TV. This study reminds us not to look at the world through the prism of our own behaviour.”


Thinkbox did find that knowledge of media consumption had improved since the first survey.

Media professionals’ estimates of the penetration of some social media apps – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat – were within a 10%-point margin of the penetration reported by the UK public.

They could also “very accurately” estimate the amount of time people spend watching broadcast TV on a TV set, collectively estimating 2hrs, 33 mins a day (BARB data for the first half of 2022 reports 2hrs, 24 mins).

In 2016, the industry under-estimated viewing figures by over an hour.


However, with TikTok particularly media professionals were a long way out. They thought that 35% of the UK public used the platform in the last 3 months. It was 17%.

In addition they estimated that the UK population spent 2hr3minutes a day watching subscription video on demand. According to BARB the actual figure is 35minutes.

They were however broadly aligned when it came to television advertising, which was rated as the leading source of advertising that the UK public “liked”, “made them laugh” and that they felt “made brands, products, or services more famous.”

While TV received the highest number of mentions from both samples, they differed on their second choice: media professionals thought cinema advertising was the second highest performer across most attributes, but the public had social media as the second highest ranking medium for the majority of statements.  

“While there have certainly been some changes in the way the UK public consumes media, TV content – and broadcast TV in particular – remains a dominant player,” explained Hannah Whyte-Smith, Research Director in Media Development, Ipsos UK.

“Despite increased penetration of social media platforms, TV remains the leading source for advertising that resonates with consumers – including making brands more famous and directing them toward a new brand, product, or service. As the cost of living continues to grow more challenging, we could see the public’s reliance on broadcast TV services deepen, with the potential to enhance its place as a key medium for advertisers.”

The study was based on a random probability survey by Ipsos of 1,158 people weighted to be representative of the national population, and a survey of 216 media professionals.

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