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Just to be seen November 6, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing.
Tags: , , ,

I was talking with one of our marketing people the other day about radio, web, and what power (if any) there is in simply “being seen”. Is a campaign successful purely if it, on paper, reaches the target audience? Or is some sort of interaction mandatory before raising your brand’s flag and claiming victory?

Being purely online, I see a level of engagement as the only measure of success, however I forget that traditional media have never had this luxury. The marketing person I was discussing this with was running through a radio campaign that had, on paper, “reached 35%” of our target demographic. I asked for proof, of which none could be provided because it is all based on a sample of 2000 people in the radio network’s broadcast area. 2000 people whose data is extrapolated to the n &supth; degree, whose choices, likes and dislikes are then sold to advertisers as the habits of the nation. All the while nobody talking about the elephant in the corner, nobody being willing to say our demo doesn’t actually listen to radio anymore.

I set about de-constructing the numbers, trying to get a solid idea on what our CPA (cost-per-acquisition) was. I’m not going to go ito too much detail, but broadly speaking, I could have wandered university campuses around the country and handed out six-packs of beer and achieved a similar outcome; this does not get chalked up as a win in my book.

I forget though that the accountability inherent in an online platform can be frightening to people from traditional media backgrounds; putting a price tag on each person reached by that campaign is scary for the folk I work with as it only serves to highlight inefficiencies in our marketing practices. And because it so quickly reveals the flaws, people are quick to judge, become defensive, and bury their heads even further into the sand while the digital steamroller edges ever closer.

As marketers we should be embracing hard numbers, even if most people went into marketing so they could avoid math. We should be taking closer, more scrutinised looks at ourselves and learning from our mistakes. That’s easy for me to say when my preferred medium lays it all bare anyway, but to run from our ability to know more about our audience, their habits and how they think and transfer that into flawlessly executed campaigns is tantamount to admitting defeat, hanging up our BlackBerrys and going off to work at an organic farm, longing for simpler, easier times.

I’ve never thought it enough just to be seen, but there’s an increasingly short shelf life looming for anyone who does.



1. Sam - November 7, 2007

I guess the problem is that there is no reliable mechanism in traditional advertising to track the successfulness of a campaign. It surprises me that over so many years, these traditional advertising methods haven’t evolved much to include hard metrics, even though advertising is often the main source of income.

Maybe it is a big conspiracy – people prefer soft, malleable facts that they can mould to get the convincing results they want. Then again, you are dealing with advertisers, whose day job *is* about convincing people of a particular idea. So why should they cut the crap when it comes to their clients?

The internet is changing the scene though and is a traditional advertiser’s nightmare, because the metrics come for free effectively. Companies are realising that hard metrics now exist and are beginning to demand them. The advent of interactive advertising is only going to push this further, until we’re swimming in an overflow of metrics, struggling to make sense of it all – that’s for another day 🙂

Then again, maybe being ‘just to be seen’ is not good enough, but how do you measure someone’s psychological processes, over infinite time? Personally, and for a lot of friends, the uni campus centre ads are probably the most effective ads you’ve had because they raised brand awareness.

The direct effect of your advertisements is minimal – few are going to run to a computer to use your product after seeing your ad. It is the indirect effects like brand awareness that matter. Surveys (which have their own quirks) aside, brand awareness is immeasurable. Interaction is a poor measure because people may act on that awareness whenever the person sees fit, not within timeframe x-y required for hard statistics. Yet brand awareness it is probably one of the most important components of your advertising portfolio.

I haven’t offered any solutions – maybe you just have to account for the ‘just to be seen’ factor and rely on other harder metrics to make up for that, I don’t know. This is why I’m going back to a mindless code-cutting task and let others rack their brains in frustration 🙂

2. Splash Jumanji - November 13, 2007

Sam, you raise some interesting points., nice to know somebody actually saw the posters as well! ;]

I think one also needs to look at the context for the advertising as well. You’re right: someone isn’t going to run to the nearest computer lab on a university campus to jump on to the site, so maybe those ads are better served online, when it is a single click to come to the site and register…food for thought!

I think ultimately advertising is about sending people a message when they’re in the most receptive frame of mind; you see top 40 music marketed on TV during Australian Idol, sports memorabilia during the cricket, etc. I saw a great quote somewhere this morning, the essence of which as this: advertising will continue to become more and more targeted until it ceases to exist as it will simply be information. Bring it on!!

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