“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things,
Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax,
Of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings.”
The Walrus and the Carpenter - Lewis Caroll
The time has come for us to talk of many things and since we live in an era of social networking, blogging, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, et al. Let’s try and make it more like an interactive multilogue (many to many) rather than a monologue! So, please do post comments, critique, criticism, differing points of view…
Measure for Measure
For a most of us in the media industry, measurement is everything. If it can’t be measured, it does not exist! Ask the publisher of the latest niche magazine who talks about the focused audience, low wastage, audience involvement and quality of reading, till he is blue in the face. Or the latest mobile phone gaming app which places the brand communication within the game. Or the brand based online social community – what do we measure here?
The media industry is poised on the edge of the ‘integration’ precipice (known also as Total Communication, Integrated Marketing Communication - IMC or 3600) and we are simply peering over the edge and feeling giddy instead of taking the one giant leap! While all of us acknowledge that the ‘Integrated’ approach is the only way forward for brand communication, we are still grappling with basic issues of inter-media comparisons for traditional media. Measurability and efficacy of unconventional media are, of course, the next step. Rarely do we manage to reach the level of truly measuring an integrated solution – which is the effect it has on the brand!
Vehicle Vs Advertising
Peoplemeter data ensures that we not only know the reach of a program on TV but also the exact reach delivered by the advertising spot within the program. Print however continues to get measured on reach of the vehicle or publication. Noticeability studies which attempt to shift the paradigm to the ad from the vehicle have not managed to become the industry norm. The reason cited is usually ‘impact of creative quality on noticeability of the ad’! Obviously this is not an issue specific to the print industry and is generic in nature with similar impact even on TV ad awareness and recall.
Apples and oranges
TV audiences have doubled in the last 10 years! The other way to see it – the cost of delivery has halved! Instead of a mass uprising to get the true value which a channel merits, we have channels fighting media agency battles with foregone conclusions. The focus continues to remain on TRP with bitter in-fighting among channels while all that is required is to shift the focus to CPT from CPRP. This makes the medium instantly (and advantageously) comparable to the audience delivery through other media. There would be obvious (but unjustified) resistance from agency buyers as CPRP is a terrific negotiating tool to keep the attention focused away from the actual audience delivery for which a higher price ought to be paid.
Internet, touted as an interactive and response based medium is also at the receiving end of measurement inequalities. It has to deliver on the most rigidly defined parameters which go beyond even engagement to actual sales – probably the only medium to be able to connect to the last mile in such a measurable way. This advantage comes with its own set of issues and problems. Why should the sheer exposure and reach delivery value of this medium be so severely discounted? Thankfully, there is a measure of awareness of this issue within the industry and some of the leaders within this space are also talking reach, hits and page exposures alongside click-throughs and leads.
Bananas and Peaches?
The measurement issue on TV is further compounded by the fact the ratings are time-weighted. So if a person has watched half of a TV program, he or she is counted as half a person. This is all very well when channels or programs are being compared intra-medium, on a similarly discounted platform. It’s the inter-media comparisons where the reach of TV gets further discounted. This is effectively like deciding on the reach of a publication basis the number of pages read! The actual comparison currency should therefore not even be TRP based CPTs vs CPRP but a progression to talking reach vs TRP!
OTS Vs Impact Value
The way a medium is consumed impacts the noticeability or its OTS delivering ability. This is where the qualitative issues like active versus passive medium, place of consumption, clutter, involvement with editorial or content and of course, the inherent characteristics of the medium come into play. TV with its high level of clutter and passive delivery of the message would have lower levels of noticeability. On the other hand, its powerful audio-visual message delivery would right the balance. Outdoor is a unique medium where the medium is also the message as it has no editorial content! Factors like size, placement, angle and elevation of the site would impact OTS or noticeability for Outdoor.
Getting a more realistic idea of exposure or OTS of a medium is necessary but not sufficient. There is also the creative impact of communication which is termed as the communication or impact value by Erwin Ephron. Mobile as a medium is now comparable in sheer exposure value to TV – both have a reach of about 500mn. However, we know the effect of a brand communication in TV is going to be different from that on a mobile handset and this is what we term as the impact value of the medium.
See below a study conducted by ZenithOptimedia in the UK to benchmark the OTS value (exposure) of various media. Ephron added the US context and also the Impact value (Communication effect).
Source: Erwin Ephron Whitepaper 2004
Product life cycle PLC of a brand
The context or the stage at which the brand is at dictates the communication and marketing task. The role that a medium can play and its importance would change depending on the PLC.
A brand like Amul Probiotic curd which has to educate the consumer about the product at the launch phase, would probably use print for the credibility and the amount of information that can be given. The brand would also use a lot of advertorials in magazines where the ad would be part of a larger editorial feature on ‘wellness, or on ‘friendly bacteria’. The brand may use Television to build greater market penetration or support its distribution expansion efforts during its growth phase. In its mature phase, if the brand is planning to run a limited period promo offer, it may decide to use mainline dailies to propagate the offer and build reach quickly.
What we are basically talking about is a change in the ‘Impact value’ of a medium depending on the brand context – a closer mirroring of the reality of media mix decisions. This too needs to be factored into the media measurement and comparison process.
All the measures or issues discussed above operate in the delivery (though a more robust, closer to reality) space whereas what is actually required is a shift of focus to the effect of the delivery. From “How many exposures or reach of the brand communication and the cost-efficiency” to “What what was the effect on the brand awareness, sales or equity and was it close to the intended response.” This is the premise for the zero based budgeting that marketers use to set marketing and advertising expenditure levels – allocate money to an option depending on its ability to deliver on brand measurables. This approach calls for a regular track on brand effect measures like awareness, preference, equity and sales. It also calls for an experimentative approach where the marketer is open to new opportunities and options as he is constantly in a testing mode.
Unlike their counterparts, non-traditional media are already advantaged in this regard as most of them are brand-driven and response-focused (have had to be, to get traction and bull-doze their way into communication plans). Traditional media too need to understand this last mile connect to the consumer better and move closer to truly delivering a Solution to advertisers’ needs.
Desperately seeking Change agents…
There is a real need to ensure that media operate with a level playing field and that the measurement system does not favour any one medium while ensuring that the unique strengths of each medium are taken into account in the media comparison and selection process. The charge of this light brigade has to find its hero and who better than the advertiser to push initiatives at every industry forum as it’s his money which is being spent!
(Arpita Menon is Managing Partner, Quantemplate. Quantemplate is a media analytics company focused on maximising realisation for media owners.)