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Taking the Measure of Media Reach

Dec 2, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Nielsen recently announced plans to measure advertising campaign reach across all electronic media, including television, the Internet and cell phones, plus consumer-generated media.

While some TV industry professionals doubt Nielsen’s ability to pull this off, others hope it does. Effective measurement can only help all electronic media to grow, as a substantial weakness of branding television is tangible short-term evidence of effect.

Unlike direct mail, television does not provide a client with the emotional reassurance that his ad spread is working. Since consumers don’t carry their television sets into a retail store as proof they reacted to the ad, as they do with coupons or direct-mail pieces, clients often are left to wonder if their advertising investment is producing hard immediate results.

Worse, television’s positive results often are linked back to an incorrect source such as print ads, direct-mail pieces or even e-mail blasts. Clients often seem to not understand that their television campaign drives response from all other media used in the campaign.

We are not here solely to help clients design and execute successful television campaigns; we also need to help review flights and use customer feedback to plan future campaigns. It’s our responsibility to help clients build effective measurement metrics up front so that when TV review and planning time comes, we have the hard results to replace that look of confusion on a client’s face with a smile of satisfaction.

Accurate measurement has always mattered. How can we really expect to be able to secure more competitive media ad dollars until we master the difficult issue of cross-media measurement?

As television evolves yet again from a home-based medium to a mobile medium, we need answers and new audience-measurement tools—and we need them now.

Case in point: The Internet has done something that no one anticipated. It has significantly shortened the buying windows of all big-ticket purchases. As consumers use the Internet to research a product, more and more time now is spent gathering data about a product. When a consumer does finally visit a store to make a purchase, he feels armed with the rationale to make an educated choice and buy quickly.

Consumers see TV ads and begin to research that product immediately. Television’s impact has always been immediate, but now a delay in response can occur as a result of the consumer’s much longer research window.

Consumers see TV ads and react in many new ways, rather than the old standard of visiting a store. Consumers seeing TV ads today go directly to the advertiser’s company Web site; they also Google the company to find blogs and reviews, and they call around and ask questions about the company. Only after the consumer feels satisfied with the information he collected does he visit the retail location.

Another case in point: We have had home-builder clients tell us that a consumer will spend four months and up to 20 hours a week researching a home purchase before even calling for an appointment.

Our personal research reveals that a full 90% of American consumers will not call or visit a company if the advertiser’s Web site does not appeal to them. In short, the Internet has created yet another marketing layer between a retailer and a consumer. Is it any wonder measurement has never been more vague and complicated?

Big-ticket purchases are where this phenomenon began, and now it has evolved to include all purchases. Even restaurant chains are seeing their online orders swell this year.

Getting back to research and measurement, we have uncovered one specific truth: When you ask a customer a research question often is more important than what question you ask.

A while back we wrote about how the home-building industry is beginning to evaluate consumers on what they do versus what they say they are going to do.

For example, in this industry there are four separate and distinct consumer buying stages by a consumer purchasing a new-construction home: researching, touring, considering and buying. Home buyers usually answer the same question differently based on which buying stage they are in at the time.

So if a home builder was to ask a researching consumer, “What do you like about our company?” at this point, the builder may be greeted with responses such as, “I liked what I saw about you online” or “I found out about you through Google.”

When we would ask the same question during the phase of touring homes, the same consumer might say, “We drove by and saw that you built these homes.” Thus, this time our same customer would be recorded as a “drive-by lead.”

Asked again at the considering phase, the buyer might say, “We chose you because of your price.”

As a result, this same consumer again would be recorded differently, this time as a “broker lead.”

In the buying phase, when the consumer finally purchases the home, the buyer response could be based on the warranty and service after the sale. Here the home builder could record the buyer as a “warranty buyer.”

The buyer perception of what she liked about the home builder changed as she moved between the varying emotional stages of a big-ticket purchase. Is it possible that the effect of the home builder’s TV campaign took months to be realized? Of course.

It’s not TV that has an issue; the issue is with the measurement of TV. Television is not flawed, but our measurement metrics are. Folks just don’t readily admit what they really watch. How many corporate CEOs want to admit they love “Family Guy”?

In our estimation, Nielsen will discover that consumers are using new digital media tools to quickly find out more about the ads they saw on television. The massive reach of broadcast television will once again prove itself as the engine that drives all other media usage. Its impact will be seen as the source of many Web and cell phone activities.

The combined use of these tools is the answer because, in the end, it’s results that matter. Television will always create the trail that all other media follow.

Adam Armbruster is a senior partner with Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. He can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.

13 Comments

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