Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

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Attention and Intention

July 2, 2010

Bob Hoffman, the provocative blogger at AdContrarian.com asks “After 15 years, can anyone name even ten serious non-native consumer-facing brands that have been created by web advertising? Is there a brand of coffee, butter, beer, bread, chicken, gasoline, soda, peanut butter, dog food, milk, tires, potato chips, life insurance, lawn mowers…don’t make me go on, you get the point…that has been built primarily by web advertising?”

Although “non-native consumer-facing brands” is quite a caveat, and Bob forgets to mention the Internet as a mainstream advertising media is barely over a decade old, AND less than 10% of all ad dollars are spent online, he still has a point.

But the takeaway isn’t ‘web advertising is a failure.’ Far from it. To understand the role of digital marketing you need to understand the mindset of Internet users.

Marketing via traditional media is mostly about attention. Media planners are interested in demographics and relevance. They ask ‘does this programming sync with consumers who are most likely to buy the product being advertised?’ Media planners have few clues whether or not a viewer has any real intent to buy the product/service being advertised. I’ve watched hundreds, maybe thousands of TV ads by Geico and Progressive, and I have zero intent to purchase any of their fine services.

Internet users have an intention mindset. That explains why over 60% of online ad dollars are spent on search. When people are in the hunt for a particular product or service category, then tend to seek out product information, authorities, and reputations via digital media. They don’t sit in front of their TV sets to see which advertisement is most persuasive before making a purchase decision.

I realize I’m making some broad generalizations here. Most people don’t go online to research a candy bar or dish soap, and many brands move the awareness needle via web advertising. The point I want to make is marketing goals, user mindsets and media attributes should be a driving force behind any marketing strategy.

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TV Ad Exposure Exposed

February 28, 2010

Over the past decade or so there has been a lot of talk about the diminishing efficacy of TV advertising, but I’m not sure how much of this criticism gets to the heart of the matter. According Nielsen the average American still consumes over four hours of TV programming everyday and ad skipping via DVRs still seems to be negligible.

In 2009 Sequent Partners, Ball State University’s Center for Media Design, the Council for Research Excellence, and Nielsen reported findings of a ground breaking research project. If you want to get a better understanding of how Americans use media, I highly recommend reading the full report.

The study reported “TV users were exposed to, on average, roughly an hour a day (61.1 minutes) of live TV ads and promos.” This figure may be a bit inflated, but still stunning if you consider the average participant’s total exposure to computer and mobile screens was only 2 hours and 43 minutes a day. As a comparison, the average daily exposure to television clocked in at 6 hours and 3 minutes. For some reason participants in this study consumed two more hours of television everyday than the Nielsen panel – as reported in the Nielsen Three Screens Report.

What really troubles me about studies like this is the phrase ‘exposure to TV ads’. I submitted a request to the CRE for their definition but haven’t heard back yet. From what I can deduce, ‘exposure to ads’ means being in close enough proximity to a TV to see and/or hear the advertisements. Exposure doesn’t necessarily mean looking at the TV or actively listening to the audio. And there lies the problem.

“Exposure” is not a useful measure of consumer attention or engagement, and without at least a minimal level of attention, one would assume a TV advertisement would have little if any effect on the user.

So what do we know about TV ad exposure and a viewer’s level of attention? Not much, and I’m not so sure our industry is eager to find out.

Page 46 of the VCM final report includes a chart illustrating ‘concurrent media exposure’ during regular TV content and advertisements. The diagram is cryptic, but its obvious concurrent media exposure is significantly elevated when TV commercials are running. I assume environmental factors such as conversations, etc. are accounted for in the data represented by the blue triangle.

Concurrent media exposure sounds benign. Most people assume they can “multi-task” and successfully consume multiple media streams simultaneously. As I noted last November, researchers at Stanford University study found media multi-taskers cannot process more than one information string at a time. A 2007 MRI study reported similar findings.

Based on the VCM study and other studies, I diagrammed my hypothesis of how much attention viewers pay to TV advertising. During TV advertisements, the percentage of viewers who are highly engaged is quite small. How small? We don’t know for sure. To my knowledge, nobody has done a comprehensive study to find out how attentive viewers are to TV commercials. And that seems quite odd given billions of dollars are spent on television advertising every year.

So what does this all mean? Every marketing communications activity should be evaluated by attention and engagement measures, not exposure. CPM (cost-per-thousand) can be extremely misleading when comparing one marcom activity to the next.

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Does A Media Mix Mindset Limit Marcom Effectiveness?

November 25, 2009

Should media allocation strategies continue to play a preeminent role in marcom planning decisions?

To answer this question, let’s begin with an analogy:  how investors make decisions.

Investors typically hold one of two basic philosophies: top down or bottom up. Top down investors analyze the markets, determine which asset classes (stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.) offer the best risk/reward opportunities, and allocate accordingly. Once the basic allocation mix is decided, these investors will allocate further within each asset class. For example, stocks have several characteristics: growth vs. value, large vs. small, emerging vs. developed countries. And within these characteristics lie various sectors: financials, healthcare, telecommunications, etc. The resulting portfolio of investments will ideally reflect this series of macro to micro decisions.

Bottom up investors see a market of stocks, not a ‘stock market’. They start their decision making process by analyzing a wide array of investments, and their portfolios are the result of picking individual securities – a bottom up process. Warren Buffet is a well-known bottom up investor.

When it comes to marketing communication decisions, most brand marketers adhere to a top down philosophy, relying on techniques such as media mix modeling to provide a framework for budgets and strategy. This philosophy makes a lot of sense when your marcom universe consists solely of one-to-many channels (TV, radio, print), where commercial messages are directed at a passive audience.

But does the top down philosophy break down when the importance of one-to-one marketing communications grows in importance, where the consumer is viewed as a participant instead of an audience? Do media mix models adequately weigh conversational marketing activities such as experiential marketing, social media, customer service, and sale training?

And what does a bottom up approach look like? Do we begin by imagining possible consumer experiences first and let the media mix chips fall where they may? Or do we create better media allocation models? Or simply continue using the current models while acknowledging their limitations?

I would hope marketers recognize the pitfalls of following an exclusive top down approach. We shouldn’t limit the potential of more interactive marketing communication channels by following a philosophy devised in a one-to-many media world.