Going metrics

The infamous 'half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted' quote has been haunting the ad industry for about 80 years, but now a Canadian media management agency believes it finally has the answer to this worrisome riddle. The answer says Mark Sherman, president of Montreal-based Media Experts, is: 'The half that doesn't work is the half of audience that's not there.'

The infamous ‘half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted’ quote has been haunting the ad industry for about 80 years, but now a Canadian media management agency believes it finally has the answer to this worrisome riddle. The answer says Mark Sherman, president of Montreal-based Media Experts, is: ‘The half that doesn’t work is the half of audience that’s not there.’

Sherman’s epiphany came from a decision to be as accountable to his clients as possible by providing them with more realistic estimates of how many potential customers will likely see or hear their advertising.

As a result, the agency is joining a worldwide trend and developing new models to quantify what the industry has always known: There is a great deal of difference between a medium’s total audience or readers and the actual number of people who have been exposed to an ad. Clients who are privvy to new models like this, such as Reitmans, Telus and Seagram, are enjoying the benefits.

‘We’re moving from a media measurement model that’s based on ‘could have seen’ to an advertising exposure model that’s based on ‘probably saw’,’ says Sherman. ‘We’re taking every ounce of intelligence [and research] we have to predict how many people probably saw the ad. We believe we’re giving a more truthful estimate of what the customer is paying for and that’s the start of [accountability.]‘

Sherman cautions that this model is not a negotiation ploy to get better rates from media sellers, but that he simply wants more transparency for his clients and a new tool to help planners and buyers make better decisions.

To develop the new planning model, Media Experts brought in New York-based media guru Erwin Ephron to develop a methodological approach to adjusting TV audience numbers, and the agency is working with other research experts to do similar work for all other media.

Ephron, principal in New York-based consultancy Ephron Papazian & Ephron, assessed existing recall and attentiveness studies to come up with three areas of adjustment needed to realistically reflect how many viewers are ‘likely to see’ ads: the size of the commercial unit; the average number of commercials in the pod; and a day part, program type adjustment (see sidebar page 34).

Ephron says this new modelquantifies the TV effectiveness problem and shows advertisers the importance of looking for alternatives. He also says media buying today needs to be not about extending reach, but about creating duplication and synergy with a mix of media.

‘The greater truth is that cost-per-thousands don’t mean much if people don’t see the ads. ROI studies show that for the majority of brands, TV does not pay back in the short term. That’s very different than 20 years ago when there was conscious evidence that when you ran on TV, you got sales response.’

Even television networks know the commercial break is not the best place for promoting their programs, he points out. U.S. networks are now using on-program overlays to promote their shows rather than in-program spots, something Ephron says sums up the dilemma very nicely.

The software being developed by Media Experts helps planners make the audience adjustments and lets them factor in a myriad of qualitative research elements such as demographic, psychographic, and behaviourial information to help fine tune targeting.

Sherman says: ‘We want to count connection with advertisers, not opportunities for connection. Even if it takes more work, I think my clients deserve that.’

Daniel Rabinowicz, president of Taxi Montreal, has worked closely with Media Experts and says the media agency’s work has been a major contributor to the excellent results enjoyed by Telus and Reitmans, which are clients the two agencies share.

‘Retailers are very conscious of making sure every dollar is working for them. Theoretical reach/frequency doesn’t mean a lot,’ says Rabinowicz. ‘To [Reitmans] it’s a no-brainer – it’s working. They get great feedback from their customers and…great sales increases.’

Although the audience adjustment model is new and wasn’t part of the planning for the Reitmans and Telus campaigns currently on air, placement for both campaigns was decided by defining and finding the key target groups for each advertiser. For Reitmans, the result was a 100% specialty TV buy focusing on channels like W, HGTV and Bravo.

Richard Ivey, VP of client services at the Toronto office of Media Experts, says what audience adjustment will do is refine the process even more, and be more specific about program choices.

He adds: ‘We’ve done some tests and they’ve been quite telling in terms of difference between two programs on an existing TV schedule. Outwardly they look the same, cost the same, but the difference in opportunity for the viewer to see your spot can be as much as 50% to 100% on some shows.’

The cost efficiencies are seen in cost per customer contact, says Ivey, with the test results ranging from 25 to 75 cents for each individual person who is reached. He says cost per customer contact can be substantially higher with other media such as direct mail, which can be $20 or $30 depending on the elements of the communications piece.

Bob Reaume, VP of media and research for the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA), says advertisers would love to get closer to ‘likely to see’ – something that’s been their goal for many years. ‘We see this research as something that could help us in the areas of accountability and getting closer to the purchase rather than further away.’

The problem in the past, he says, has been the dichotomy between the needs of advertisers and media sellers. Advertisers would like to have extremely sophisticated, better research – and that’s costly – while media owners, who pay 90% of the research cost, simply want credible research that they can use to set a price.

The work of Media Experts and Ephron reflects the thinking of media agencies around the world that are starting to cast aside the old quantitative metrics to focus on the more qualitative characteristics of multiple customer contact points to target smaller, more valuable audiences.

Last month at the Media Research Group Conference in Spain, a presentation by Frank Harrison, strategic resources director for ZenithOptimedia Worldwide, discussed the Market Contact Audit (MCA) consumer research tool as a viable new alternative. MCA, from Beirut-based Integration, is being used by agencies and marketers such as Procter & Gamble to measure the effect of advertising touch points or channels on purchase intent for individual brands. The currency derived from the methodology is Brand Experience Points (BEPs).

David Shiffman, VP research at MediaVest in New York, says media agencies have always known they are dealing with estimates of possible exposure when it comes to audience research.

Shiffman believes it is very tricky to find the right adjustment factor for every single occasion. It’s true that 15-second ads typically are less effective than 30-second spots, but not likely by the same margin every single time.

‘We place more value on the highly engaged environment than a low engagement environment,’ says Shiffman. ‘It kind of gets you to the same place at the end of the day. We’re just adjusting and putting more value on option A versus option B rather than a system that adjusts both down.’

The methodology Shiffman refers to, used at Starcom MediaVest Group in Toronto, uses ongoing consumer focus groups and combines proprietary, syndicated, and custom research to create ‘passion groups.’ The system helps determine the media specific consumers are engaged with, then execute the plan based on that engagement.

Steve Meraska, SVP director of business development at Starcom in Toronto, says this method has helped prove to clients that a different media mix and even the creation of new media have a role in bringing a brand to life.

‘One thing we find amazing is how many media dollars are planned by people who never talk to consumers.’

One example of how this works is a campaign for Smirnoff Triple Black. A male-oriented less-sweet cooler with higher alcohol content, it was developed using Passion Group research from the SMG Insights Group. Focusing on the social nature of young males and the importance they place on male bonding through sports, mainly the NHL, the campaign was built around the target group’s passion for sports trivia and friendly competition.

Meraska says the TV focused on the NHL but also sports score shows. Consumers were also engaged through a micro-site with a viral component where visitors could play a trivia game for a chance to win prizes and then e-mail their score to a friend and challenge them to beat it.

Results were good. Over 42,000 unique users played an average 4.7 times, over 11+ minutes on average. More than 13,000 unique names were collected for the database. Of the site visitors, over 50% felt Triple Black was one of their favourite brands and 6.5% indicated intent for trial.

As for the TV: ‘It’s easy to say you’re going to use sports shows,’ says Meraska, ‘but we know how important it is to capitalize on a particular part of a program. As much as media practitioners are media experts, we’ve also now become consumer experts.’


Ephron’s flaw-fixing model

In a paper called Media Malpractice, Erwin Ephron says the current media measurement model is flawed and failing. In the document, Ephron, principal in New York-based consultancy Ephron Papazian & Ephron, explains his criteria and adjustments for calculating ‘likely sees the ad:’

* Fifteen-second audiences should be discounted by 50%. (Research and brand experience have shown that shorter commercial units have a far lower probability of being seen, remembered and recalled.)

* The average number of commercials in the pod. Ephron discounts a pod of one to three commercials by 10%; four to six by 20%; and seven or more by 30%. He counts program promos as commercial units. The number of commercials in a pod also affects commercial recall.

* Time of day. On average, Ephron suggests discounting daytime and prime-time audiences by 10% to 20%; late night by 15%; early news by 15% to 30%, and team sports by 5% to 10%.

* Viewer demo. Younger viewers are less attentive than older viewers and early evening (dinner time) has the lowest attention level, particularly for women.

* Program type. Strong plot lines capture and retain viewer attention while loosely formatted programs, like variety, talk and news magazines, produce less focused viewing. Reality programs are in between. Live information such as news and weather attract attentive viewing. Men report paying high attention to team sports.