Quality drives Nissan media buy

Engrossing programming reduces likelihood of zappingIn this special report, Strategy explores the issue of buying television on the basis of audience quality. Three media directors argue the merits of a qualitative buy, while a fourth says the development of a qualitative...

Engrossing programming reduces likelihood of zapping

In this special report, Strategy explores the issue of buying television on the basis of audience quality.

Three media directors argue the merits of a qualitative buy, while a fourth says the development of a qualitative system of audience measurement should be given low priority.

Television executives discuss how tv audiences have changed over the past 20 years.

And clients who have recently made significant commitments to advertising on tv explain their reasons for doing so.

Being in the business of selling cars for our client, Nissan, tomorrow and six months from now, it is important that the tv buy have a mixture of long-term association with ‘quality’ programming and short-term memorability of: ‘Oh yes, I saw that last night.’

Before I explain ‘My Ideas of A Good Car Buy,’ let me say that I know how subjective the media buying process is.

If anyone thinks it is not, they are lying to themselves.

I believe the entire industry would be better served if the sellers put their minds into the clients’ business and sold more subjectively on product knowledge, rather than numbers supplied through BBM Bureau of Measurement and A.C. Nielsen data.

The first lesson I learned in media was: a point is a point. I put this in the same garbage can with the lesson on eating carrots.

Common sense tells you neither of these statements can be true – I wear contact lenses and I do not have hair on my chest.

If I have a choice of buying shows with good production values, relevant story lines and a thoughtful take-away message, then I will choose those over programs that do not make that mark.

Why? Because it is a fact that the more involved a viewer is with the program, the less likely they are to ‘tune out,’ ‘graze,’ or ‘zap’ through the show or the commercials.

On the other hand, if you are advertising in shows that people can follow while scraping candlewax off the mantle, balancing the checkbook, or talking on the phone, then you can be assured your message is getting even less attention.

Through account planning research, we know the Nissan customer pool is segmented by socio-economic factors, and to reach everyone we have to appropriate our media dollars accordingly.

Spending to hit the ‘light’ viewer with high income undoubtedly costs more than spending against the norm.

Your own personal research, talking with associates, family and friends about television is nearly as revealing as computer-driven research.

One thing I notice is the higher the income, the higher the reluctance to admit to watching television, and the more apologetic the viewer’s confession.

Who has not heard the embarrassment of someone admitting to having watched ‘that show with the amazing rescues?’

Or noticed the self-possessed pride in someone stating: ‘Well, I only watch one show every week, the drama about attorneys,’ or, ‘But I would never miss 60 Minutes or the fifth estate.’

How do you find the program? Where do you draw the line at paying for suitable programming?

I think the key to quality where television is concerned is newness.

The Fall ’92 Toronto/Hamilton Nielsen shows more adults aged 25-54 viewing Jeopardy than repeats of Murphy Brown or Star Trek: The Next Generation.

While I am not being disparaging about these shows, my guess is if Murphy Brown and Star Trek were new episodes, they would out-perform Jeopardy.

And while we are on the subject, let’s redefine prime.

In my mind, most news at 11 p.m. is better inventory than repeat strip programming at 7:30 p.m.

Further to the issue of quality in programming is the quality of environment.

Environment begins with the program, but it also includes the commercials scheduled within.

For a long while, it was considered that late-night programming was the refuge of the poorly paid and uneducated.

A bit harsh perhaps, but how far off the mark no-one knows because there is no audience information beyond 2 a.m.

If a price was attached to ‘late night,’ it was certainly one that was tough to refuse, and often one that was counted on by planners and buyers to bring down overall cprs.

As much, if not more, of a concern recently are the products and services being offered – usually after midnight. There is a veritable onslaught of ‘Lonely Hearts and Parts’ ads.

Morally, I really could not care less, though judging by the awareness of these spots, not everyone is of like mind.

My worry is that spots in the same break are being missed – the viewer who has no interest in these commercials will skim up and down the dial until the show returns, the viewer who is interested in them is probably dialing the on-screen number.

And to boot, the sheer numbers of these ‘new’ advertisers are driving up the cost of late fringe.

Like it or not, whatever time your spot runs, you are at risk of being missed by the viewer who cannot stand the commercial preceding it.

With the fragmentation of tv as it is – and it is certainly not at its apex – placing media to reach a qualified target is a genuine challenge.

Standard audience research, focus groups and independent studies are the industry tools that aid us.

Understanding your client’s products, and caring about their goals gets you there. It can never be ‘just another media buy.’

Chiat/Day, New York, recently developed an on-going ‘Viewer Purity Index’ for audience quality of network program, and Chiat/Day, Toronto, has commissioned an independent media study for Nissan and Infiniti targets.

Both studies try to isolate programming favored by Asian car prospects.

And for the most part, it is the same stuff we have been buying all along. The more you know your client, the better your chances of having a successful, subjective buy.

Inevitably, every fall someone in the office will drop by three days into the launch of a new product and say: ‘My friend Bob called and said he saw the new Nissan spot in `such and such,’ or on `channel 99.’ We wouldn’t advertise in that, would we?’

And I reply: ‘Is Bob over 25 and not past 54? Yes, okay. Does Bob make big money? Yeah? Is Bob an intelligent man? Good, got him.’

Susan Armer is associate media director at Chiat/Day in Toronto.