Get Shouty

Learning the Lingua Franca
February 5, 2008, 3:13 am
Filed under: Digital Strategy


This morning I read the excellent post Measuring Audience 2.0. I was in the room at the time a lead media agency’s global digital thinker said: “I don’t know a lot about digital. But what I do know, is you can’t measure it”. At the time I Gavin had to hold me back, this being neither the time nor the place for shoutyness. And I rather liked my job at the time.

Now I think I have a better insight as to what that statement referred. Not that you can’t measure digital, just that marketers and media buyers can’t understand what those measurements mean. They speak a different language. When the Lingua Franca of effectiveness is TV, digital is speaking Esparanto. No one is a native speaker. It’s totally artificial. Yes, it’s academically constructed to be efficient. But no marketer uses it in day to day communication.

Here’s a cheat sheet to TV Audience Measurement terms and definitions.

While TV measurement  provides “opportunities to see” to a demographic segment, and it’s effectiveness is measured out in the coffee spoons of program popularity and audience share, it does not take into account wastage.

1. Regular simultaneous media consumption for online, newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and direct mail is up from 1% to 35%, depending on the medium.

2. Channel surfing remains the number one regular activity engaged in during TV commercials with 41.2% doing so followed by:

* 33.5% talk with others in the room or by phone
* 30.2% mentally tune out
* 5.5% regularly fully attend to commercials

The amount of opportunities to see, or exposures builds into Effective Frequency. This is calculated to be the  number of exposures (1+, 2+, 3+ etc) considered necessary for an advertising message to produce an effect (i.e. for the target market to take the desired action, or for the advertisement to elicit the desired response).

Frequency does not equal attention.

The deliverables of online effectiveness CAN speak that same language as marketers. Online CAN deliver on an Effective Frequency of 1. It’s as simple as that. And you you can prove it. And TV can’t. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.

For me, the Trojan Horse for digital is cross-media planning. That’s taking just one of those exposures into the online environment. Only once you know who has actually responded to your message can you talk effectiveness. Then you can really start devising a customised plan to map audience engagement.


3 Comments so far
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You make some good points here Katie. TV often suffers from another media planning anomaly – as it is usually the lead medium it is planned at weights which ‘guarantee’ a decent average frequency (usually 3 or 4, typically equivalent to about 300-400 ratings) but the delivery of that campaign is far from even. So as a result light TV viewers will be lucky to see it once, whilst heavy TV viewers (usually older and more mass market audiences) will likely see it upto 9 or 10 times. Now, you can’t tell me that the agency wants it that way or that all those heavy TV viewers would suddenly have a eureka moment on the tenth viewing of the ad. This is not the fault of TV (any single medium deployed in such weight would be the same), it is a consequence of the way in which it is planned. But as a result of this, TV is deployed in such weights in comparison with other media that the effectiveness of those other media is often impossible to assess properly since it is drowned by the weight of TV. This is why econometric data often cannot be used to effectively assess the role of supporting media, and hence why clients find it difficult to justify changing the spend patterns significantly.
Your point about simultaneous media consumption is, I think, a really important one. The way in media is consumed is changing drammatically. Study after study shows that multi-tasking is on the increase, attention to a single task or medium on the decrease. One of the most recent studies found that just 5.5% of people pay full attention to TV ads when they come on (more here
I’m not having a pop at TV here – other media are the same to a greater or lesser extent. The point is is that that is a greater or lesser extent at all, and that most media planning takes scant regard of the attention which is likely to be paid to that medium. An opportunity to see is assumed always to be an opportunity fulfilled.
I’ll get off my high horse now.

Comment by neilperkin

Good to see you here Neil, and you make some nice points (that horse ‘aint so high!).
where I think it comes down is that online can deliver a CPM at about a tenth of the cost of TV.
I am having a go at media planners and marketers who say you can’t measure online in the same way that you can measure TV- you can, it’s cheaper and what’s more the halo effect of cross channel, cross media planning has the whole adding up to more of the parts.
But it’s much more work. It’s seen as risky. And it’s not an off the rack solution.

Comment by katiechatfield

Yep I agree. Saying that you can’t measure it is unbelieveable when online is in many ways far more measurable and accountable than other offline media. In fact in some ways it’s almost too accountable. If you wanted to you could drown in the amount of tracking data which is available from a single campaign. So the real challenge is in understanding properly what your objectives are (and it shouldn’t always be click-through) and therefore which metrics are your benchmarks. Gavin’s point about page impressions being a largely overrated metric is so true. There are multiple ways of measuring it which all use different methodologies, there is no single common currency for it, and new technologies such as Ajax allow for lots of things to happen on a page without a refresh. And anyway as Gavin says, it’s the audience that matter in the end. Sorry – preaching to the converted I know but there is still a lot of store put behind metrics which are not all that valuable. The really interesting thing will be when behavioural targeting starts to acculmulate scale, and when we try and measure social applications since that will force everyone to rip up the media planning handbook and start again.
Bugger – I’m back on that tall horse again

Comment by neilperkin

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