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Media Zone: Chasing Trends Doesn’t Yield Effective Reach

1 Dec, 2016 By: Peter Feinstein Response

What in heaven’s name is going on with advertising? Or maybe better asked: What’s going on with offline DR media?

This year has been a wild ride — like some newfangled amusement park ride — the best ups and downs of a roller coaster combined with that ride that spins you around until you maybe feel sick. And like all good rides, some folks love them and some despise them; it just depends on how you let them affect you.

Certainly, 2016 has been a year of continuing shift, upheaval, and disruption, which I believe will accelerate into 2017. The pace will be even quicker than many suspect, but in ways that might surprise. I foresee offline media (radio and TV) continuing to be relevant, crucial to brand-building, and easily trackable, while online advertising (digital) will go through seemingly unrestrained growth in the midst of all the controversies we see chronicled in our trade publications (i.e., viewability, programmatic-tool improvements, ad fraud, native-ad labeling standards, ad blocking, and even internet-privacy piracy).

What’s behind digital’s continued growth despite all of its inherent risks? The answer sits with brands on a quest for the “holy grail”: well-targeted scale. They’re searching for real ways to effectively reach just the right group of people spending more and more time online. Who can blame them? Scale is what yields sales.

You’ve got to admit: some of the ad-tech firms use powerfully influential language to persuade brands of all sizes to take the plunge online. I don’t blame brands for opting to spend great gobs of money in search of ROI. They seek well-targeted scale, and digital claims it can deliver. The digital premise goes something along the lines of: “We’ve got everyone you want right here.”

The truth, however, is quite different. Online media does not have everyone you want. But then no one does — not offline media, not even the giants of broadcast, and the largest of the cable networks. Audiences are fragmented, sliced and diced thinner than ever before.

I was going to write about how online media’s biggest challenge is delivering scale of any kind, but then I thought, nah, that’s self-evident. So, instead, I thought I’d offer a glimpse into a more-balanced approach to buying media as a means of building sales through a system I call “Effective Reach.” I’m not the first to call it this; the term may go back as early as the days of Westinghouse Broadcasting. It was the darling of Katz Broadcasting, which is where I learned it and internalized it as a value I champion to this day.

The premise of “Effective Reach” is simple: Evaluate a media outlet to determine its key performance characteristics, and then apply a series of formulas to determine how many runs are necessary to reach a predetermined percentage of that outlet’s audience a specified number of times.

We’ve evolved the system to be media agnostic. When done correctly, it reveals how much frequency (how many runs) we need to buy in order to make that impact. As long as our message is on-point, we can see prodigious results. We can apply this to radio and TV, and we’ve even managed to massage the formulas to work for print and many forms of digital media. The keys to the kingdom are found not just in buying massive reach, nor in reducing the target market down to the ridiculous. Rather, it’s knowing exactly what reach you have — and when you have it — so that you can plan your runs accordingly.

This is big-picture media, not the minutiae that our industry seems to be arguing about. It’s all about targeting real people with real ads in real time. Truthfully, digital media has a harder time with this than traditional media, but that’s because there are vastly more cooks in the kitchen — fragmentation, ad fraud, bots, ad blocking, etc. — each getting in the way of knowing your real reach and when that reach happens.

But it’s not insurmountable. It’s just easier to work the numbers with offline media and produce ROI. In the end, while some decry ROI as a key performance indicator, it’s the only one that always guarantees success because it’s the final measurement of all your activity, and that’s one everyone in our industry has to live and die by. Right? ■

About the Author: Peter Feinstein

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