Tag Archives: Media

It’s Déjà vu all over again

As long as I have been in this business, I’ve heard the saying, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” I think we’re seeing that played out again with regard to test marketing. A staple of the direct marketing industry, it had fallen out of use by other marketing disciplines in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

When I started in the agency business, testing was a priority for a number of accounts that the agency handled.

I’ll throw out a few terms: “Little U.S.” and “As-It-Falls” (which one coworker thought referred to an actual market in the Midwest called “Acid Falls”). These referred to the methodologies we media folk used so that results from any test could be projected to a larger area, most often the entire U.S.

Test markets were selected based on their ability to replicate what the U.S. as a whole looked like. Additionally, they needed to be smaller in geographic scope so as to limit out-of-pocket cost. A few of the more popular test markets were Fort Wayne, Green Bay, and Tucson.

As the business moved into the ‘80s, testing seemed like an afterthought. One of the reasons may have been that the cost of production started to increase dramatically, and running expensive spots in small, inexpensive test markets may have thrown the media cost/production cost ratio out of whack. In any event, I can’t remember a single brand that I worked on during that time that did any testing.  And I find that interesting, given the primary reason for any test is to limit financial exposure.

Fast forward to the turn of the century and the spread of the Internet, and what’s back in style is the concept of testing, analyzing, and optimizing. An idea whose roots are firmly entrenched in the earlier days of advertising is making its way back in a big way. And that’s a good thing.

Testing should be an integral part of any plan. The more we learn, the better we are, and the better our clients are as a result.

The advent of the Internet has only strengthened the case for testing. As I said at the beginning, “There are no new ideas, only old ones recycled.” But a good idea always has a place.

— Dave Capano, EVP, Director of Media Services

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A ‘Missed’ Opportunity?

I came across an article on the Media Post Web site entitled “Yet Without Information, We Are Nothing” about a study done at the University of Maryland where 200 students were asked to abstain from all forms of media for a 24 hour period.

The students were then asked to share their experience on private class Web sites. All in all, the 200 students wrote more than 110,000 words or, as the article states, “…about the same number of words as a 400-page novel.” (However, if you break it down, the average student only wrote about 550, words or roughly half the number of words in the entire article.)

Susan Moeller, a journalism professor at the university and the director of the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (What is the public’s agenda anyway? Did I miss something?), noted that “We were surprised by how many students admitted that they were ‘incredibly addicted’ to media… but we noticed that what they wrote at length about was how they hated losing their personal connections. Going without media meant, in their world, going without their friends and family.”

The article then goes on to say that “The absence of information, the feeling of not being connected to the world, was among the things that caused the most anxiety in students as they sought to learn about the role of media in their lives by completing an assignment that asked them to spend a day without using media.

“They cared about what was going on among their friends and families; they cared about what was going on in their community; they even cared about what was going on in the world at large. But most of all they cared about being cut off from that instantaneous flow of information that comes from all sides and does not seemed (sic) tied to any single device or application or news outlet.” (Italics added.)

I’m not sure I would have used the term “cared.” Caring implies a deep concern for or an empathy with a person or a cause. I think the term that should have been used was “missed.” They missed what was going on in their community. They missed what was going on in the world at large. They missed the interaction with their friends and family, if only because they felt it would somehow reassure them that they were connected to others.

This connection to others is a basic human need.  One that social media plays an important role in fulfilling. For those of you old enough, think “party line” on steroids.  The emerging technologies are redefining a number of things. Social media has helped extend the definition of the “family” unit since now outsiders can often see what family members are discussing and feel as if they’re part of the family “conversation.”  That can be both good and bad. But, again, it’s a connection.

I think the study was well intentioned, but I’m not really surprised by the results, which I feel were predictable. If you had asked me the result of a study of the reactions of college students to abstaining from any contact with media for a 24-hour period, I probably would have come up with a lot of the same conclusions.

I think a more relevant and better item for the “Public Agenda” would be a study of a cross section of the entire population sharing their stories about abstaining from all media forms for a 24-hour period. I’d expect the results from that would give us all a better insight into how to reach those of various ages.

— Dave Capano, Director of Media Services


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Time for a change?

It’s the end of the year, and the economy hasn’t rebounded to where consumers feel like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Forecasts for 2010 call for more of the same, at least in the first six months or so. Some feel it will take years to shake off the dust of this recession.

So what does a marketer do heading into 2010? Budgets are tight. Accountability, ROI, and metrics are the buzzwords that matter.

In 2009, only two media categories showed gains: internet display ads, up 7 percent, and freestanding inserts (FSIs), up 3.9 percent. I understand both being up, since they’re measurable in terms of returns. The internet also gives an advertiser the ability to change copy frequently to find out what’s working. However, last I looked, the click-through rate for internet display ads was hovering just under 0.1%. That’s one click (and only a click) for every 1,000 ads served (it doesn’t even take into account what the clicker does when he/she gets to the site). And can someone, anyone, tell me the last banner ad they remember? I hate to say it, but the internet is the SAFE way to advertise. And I never expected to say that.

Change is in the offing. But what does that change entail? It entails thinking differently and altering behavior. It entails a different mindset. If your results are flat, and I’ve heard that flat is the new up, then you probably need to change. Contrary to popular belief, flat is NOT up. Flat means you’re in the same spot. And the real metric that counts is sales. Engagement is fine as long as you can generate a sale from it. When was the last time you heard a salesperson say, “My engagements were up last month, but my sales were flat”?

There’s a saying that drastic times call for drastic measures. While some may feel that drastic change is necessary, I think that small, significant changes can have very dynamic effects on a marketer’s approach. Maybe it’s a shift from one medium to another or into a medium you’ve not used before. It may be a shift in how you schedule activity, or it might be a more tactical shift to supporting only very select trade shows or conferences.

In any event it’s a change in how you approach things. There’s a lot of opportunity out there. But we need to change focus if we are to truly see those opportunities. One of the effects of this recession has been a paralysis of sorts on a marketer’s ability to be bold. And these times call for bold action. The time for the “safe” approach is past. Safe gets you “flat.”

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The Evolving Media Landscape Poses New Media Challenges

Recently, Media Life Magazine published a survey of media planners and buyers regarding their impressions of the current economic situation and its effect on the ad business, including the media landscape. These are the people on the front lines of the money exchange, so their opinions are interesting in light of the current climate.

Some highlights:

  • More than two-thirds (68 percent) feel that there’s still some way to go before the recession is over with, and most of those surveyed forecast that it’ll be sometime in mid- to late-2010 before the ad economy improves.
  • However, the improvement of the ad economy and the return of clients spending to pre-recession levels are two entirely different things, as evidenced by the response to the question, “When will we see a return to pre-recession spending?” Just over one-third (35 percent) feel that clients will get back in the groove by the end of 2010. The remainder feel it will be after the start of 2011, with almost one in four (22 percent) not expecting spending to return to pre-recession spending until after 2012.
  • With regards to what media will recover the ‘fastest’, one-third said the Internet, and interestingly, almost as many (28 percent) said broadcast TV.

But the most telling question dealt with the impact that the current economy is having on how industry experts plan and buy media:

  • Two-thirds (67 percent) see several changes, with the biggest being a continuing shift to less expensive, more accountable media.
  • Not quite half (45 percent) felt that this is the death knell for hard copy newspapers.
  • One-fifth (20 percent) felt that the recession would lead to a reduction in the influence of large media conglomerates.
  • Surprisingly, just under one-fifth (18 percent) felt that social media would be impacted negatively.
  • And another 18 percent felt that there would be little to no change as a result of the recession.

It’s the first point that resonates most strongly with media folks. We’re challenged by clients to use media that reaches and engages consumers. And what we’re seeing is that today’s consumers absorb information in a variety of ways from a variety of sources. Add to that the fact that consumers are becoming incredibly adept at multitasking, and you see the challenges. (A September 2009 Nielsen report indicates that more than half the population [128MM, or 56.9 percent] use TV and the Internet simultaneously.)

These challenges have a direct impact on generating what all clients seek:  a quantifiable return on their marketing investment (ROI).  At Kilgannon, we develop a customized scorecard which helps clients measure their ROI. Our process in developing each scorecard includes many of these factors:

  1. Tightly defined objectives (actionable and measurable)
  2. Concise strategies
  3. The willingness to use a variety of creative units/messages
  4. Inclusion of media that allow for measurement of hard metrics (e.g., clicks, average time spent, bounce rates, etc.) in the ROI scorecard
  5. Relevant copy/content that meets what customers expect from a product or service
  6. A willingness to test and change on a continuous basis
  7. Use what works and get rid of what doesn’t

Advertising and marketing have been directly impacted and changed by the economic situation, and there’s no indication that they’ll ever return to their pre-recession ways. Today, more than ever, the media planning and buying process has to include nimbleness and the ability to change on the fly among its primary traits.

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