Lovehoney’s advertising campaign showed that whilst TV-viewing habits are changing, some of the rules of retail advertising remain the same.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t watch television any more. Don’t get me wrong, I watch a lot of programmes on the television – my Sky box is almost full, the planner is crammed with season links and my PS4 is hooked up to Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. I just don’t watch television that has advertisements in it.

I’m not unusual. Virgin Media says data from its TiVo boxes shows that a fifth of all TV is now watched in a time-shifted format and 43% of people mostly watch time-shifted TV. Eye-opening though those stats are, this still leaves the majority of people watching live TV and the adverts on it. The near-constant presence of retailers’ campaigns on our television screens suggests that not only are people watching their adverts, they’re responding to them as well.

Lovehoney has been advertising on TV for three years. We’re at the stage where we can see that every time a Lovehoney advert is broadcast we get a spike in new visitors that corresponds almost exactly to the number of leads claimed by our media buying agency.

But over the years we have found that while it’s easy to get people to come to the site, the hard part is cost-effectively converting them into sales or mailing list sign-ups. That means getting the right kind of people to come to the site at the right time and in the right mood.

In 2011 Lovehoney rebranded as ‘The sexual happiness people’, promoting the message that a fun and fulfilling sex life is as important to your health and wellbeing as your five-a-day or regular trips to the gym (and a lot more fun besides). In the flush of new-brand excitement we commissioned a TV ad that was to announce us to the world. What we got was a wonderfully executed 30-second spot that showed two couples kissing and the strapline ‘Live a sexier life’. The Lovehoney logo appeared after 27 seconds. Viewers thought we were a dating site. Fail.

Our next foray into the schedules was for Valentine’s Day 2013. Products from our official Fifty Shades of Grey collection bounced in super-slow-mo across the screen while a ‘’ URL sat apologetically in the bottom-right corner. After 28 seconds the Lovehoney logo appeared and a sultry voice-over purred “Available now at Lovehoney dot co dot uk forward slash grey” as the audience fell into a coma. It’s hard to make a web address sound sexy. Second fail.

Fast-forward to November 2013 and we were back with an ad called ‘Happy Talk’ – couples talking cheerily about the benefits of having a good sex life and shopping at Lovehoney. The logo appears in the first frame. The URL is on screen at all times. There is even a special offer and a call to action. Win.

A year later Happy Talk is back for another run through Christmas and Valentine’s Day, with shiny new couples and shiny new special offers. In three years we’ve learned a lot about how to make TV advertising work. We’ve evolved a media plan featuring efficient stars, volume drivers and awareness builders. But most of all we’ve learned what probably seemed obvious to you from the outset – give people something to buy.

  • Richard Longhurst is the co-founder of Lovehoney