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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Craft Topics – Unplugged

  Unplugged – (are we making publicity history?)

Forgive me but isn’t it time we actually talked about it? Trade bodies are gallantly putting out bullish stats to tell us that marketing spend is up. Only to print quiet retractions when revenue growth is modest at best. It’s nice to hear that internet adspend is sharply up but that has been from a very low base. And direct marketing has delivered growth year on year but factoring in inflation even DM is close to flat.

But hey if the media owners keep putting prices up and advertisers are desperate to get to the audiences then just let the market adjust. Eventually even the most desperate will realise that TV isn’t worth it anymore. Isn’t it time that we stopped looking at the wood for the trees and started where the audience is going? The politicians play to the middle ground but they have to keep an eye on the politically disenfranchised. Isn’t it time that we started to audit the advertising disenfranchised ? We’ve got to stop playing musical chairs. So the TV youth audience in the UK was down nearly 20% in the first quarter of 2005- never mind they were busy listening to the radio. No they weren’t – Radio youth audiences were down by the same amount. Ah well they were on the internet then and they must go out so they must have seen our posters.

:Look we’re not talking about change of a few percentage points but massive change – yes blame it on the research companies and change your tracking study but you’re just playing for time. Here’s another small statistic – the number of people in the UK who read a daily newspaper is about 12 million. That’s a minority of adults. It means if you want to research your press advertising you have to specifically quota for those who read a daily newspaper because most don’t. So they won’t have had the chance to see your press ads.

We have to do something about it because somewhere along the way our clients have got the impression that if they buy a newspaper schedule and have get frequency up to 6 times that they will have reached nearly everybody when the bitter truth is that they will have reach less than half. If our media channels can’t reach everybody then we ought to work out how we’re going to do about it. We need to start deducting those who we can’t reach – not even with direct mail or telemarketing. Or spam. Because there is a growing number of people who don’t see or hear advertising. It’s not that they’re trying to avoid it – they just don’t get to see it. And if our client were to discover that advertising is not an efficient way to reach a mass market – that it can only be used as a measurable tool against niche audiences then frankly advertising spending is going to collapse. They might as well built a customer and prospect mailing list and talk to them directly and do third party audience trades without any of the wastage of using mass media channels which aren’t mass any more. It doesn’t help that some of the fastest growing brands are making relatively little use of paid for media – a steady drip of case studies at Marketing Society eventsof startups who became national brand names without advertising starts to make those cheerfully spending marcoms budgets look like a cost centre. Advertising effectiveness has to go beyond the efficient and effective use of advertising media. It has to demonstrate that advertising is a valid tool for reaching people. Because this is becoming an urgent question.

Some to dos and don’ts for you to consider:

  1. Always measure your infrequent audience and those who are unplugged who are beyond the reach of the medium you’re considering. Consider won’t see your message and make a backup plan.
  2. Ask the media about their fringe audiences occasional and infrequent. The fringe is probably more valuable than the core. They will try to keep the focus on the core audience because that’s how they can auction space to the highest bidder. The core audiences aren’t the issue.
  3. Ask the major media conglomerates what they are doing to plug the gaps. It would be useful to know who ITV doesn’t reach, who Rupert can’t talk to. And if they won’t measure it then you should. I would argue that a media owner has an obligation to extend their coverage and that an owner who maximises the return against their existing audiences instead of growing the audience is placing their interests above those of advertisers and it’s time the advertisers realised this.
  4. Focus on quality of attention. This got HHCL fired by Thames TV when they raised this very topic such a long time ago. But if you’re not talking to everybody then it does matter who is paying attention and how much attention they are paying. Of course media owners don’t like this kind of talk. But it’s time they worked for their money. We know that certain programming properties and columnists have very high attention levels. In which it is probably worth paying for.
  5. Never put media plans together which only use ratecard. Experiment with new channels – put BRAD down for a minute. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t got an ABC audit on them – find your own measure, build an online panel, use a research omnibus question to quantify the audience – use some initiative!

Last month Rupert Murdoch read the lesson in the service at St Brides which market the end of Fleet Street as a locus for newspaper publishing in the UK. Let’s hope that short termist thinking in media sales doesn’t become the epitaph for the whole category.









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