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Monday, January 13, 2014




Despite the ever-growing pressure by so many senior managements on their marketing teams to “figure out social media fast—and DO something,” leading consumer companies are still spending a boatload of money in TV advertising (often referred to these days, cynically by some, as “traditional” media).  According to ZenithOptimedia, while total U.S. Internet media spending is expected to grow in 2014 to 43 billion dollars (up 18%), U.S. TV media spending is projected to be at 67 billion (up 4%).  In fact, TV’s share of total U.S. ad spending by medium has been holding around 38.5% for the past three years—even with the ravenous growth of the internet medium.


What this $67BB TV spend and its recent trend tell us is that there are still a lot of senior managers and their marketers out there who have more than a little “faith” in the effectiveness of traditional, TV advertising (whether they actively measure TV advertising ROI or not).  We know and work with some of these folks—and we respect them and the business results they have been achieving.  When we ask them, “Why do you continue to invest significant amounts of money into traditional television advertising?” there are typically three responses:


1.  “We know that we get a volume hit from TV”;

2.  “We don’t know (yet) what, if any, volume hit we get from
social media and other internet/digital types of media”;

3.  “When you work in a high-penetration consumer goods category,
      like ours, you just can’t beat the mass-reach efficiencies of TV.”


We really admire marketers who can demonstrate analytically what effects any marketing investment, let alone a TV investment, has on the business.  And, of course, we’re well aware that most marketers, their research partners, and their suppliers are doggedly trying to come up with meaningful metrics that will also demonstrate the effects of internet/digital investments on the business.  But, what intrigues us the most is the last of the responses above--not the efficiency aspect because everyone accepts the cost-per-thousand-reached advantages of TV network and cable media buys.  No, what intrigues more is the part that’s assumed but isn’t stated:  “mass-reach efficiencies of TV…which, naturally, carry significant effectiveness along with them. 


Stated another way, this assumed effectiveness thinking goes something like this:  “For brands in high-penetration/frequent use categories, the best way to maximize ‘message effectiveness’ is to aim their TV advertising to as broad a target as possible.  After all, TV offers such a high-efficiency means to do so.”  But the more we’ve thought about this line of thinking, the more convinced we’ve become that there’s, well, a kind of “effectiveness illusion” at play.  More specifically, when getting to honest-to-goodness message effectiveness, there’s a more fundamental consideration than the breadth of target audience—and that’s the ultimate behavior we require our messaging (i.e., TV advertising) to cause.


Messaging is, first and foremost, behavioral.  It’s behavioral even before it’s personal.  We want our advertising to cause a “volumetrically significant” amount of adoption, switching, increased frequency or trade-up among a certain number of a population.  The thing is, though, as we well know, the same message will not work equally well against all four of these behaviors simultaneously.


Getting more practical, while a TV media buy might very well provide us with the opportunity to speak to nearly everyone in a population (at a very efficient price), if the message is about adoption, why we would we expect it to also work within that population for gaining switches or increased frequency?  For sure, not everyone in the population is naïve (or lapsed) to the category.  Many within it are already current users of our brands and some are loyal users of other competitive brands.  So, we would have an efficient message, but probably not such an effective one.  We will admit that there are situations in which, say, an adoption-driven message could deliver gigantic volumes:  for example, the under-developed mouthwash category in a billion-plus population country like China would obviously argue for such a message.  That low-hanging fruit is much too vast for a Listerine marketer to be simultaneously concerned about switching high frequency “home-made” or local-brand mouthwash users.


By way of an analogy, think for a minute about Pharmaceutical companies.  For years, their go-to-market model had been to blanket the market with bright, young, energetic and well-trained Sales Reps (“feet on the street” as they put it).  The basic concept was to ensure that, within a given market, there were sufficient reps to call on every doctor.  You could say that this kind of one-on-one selling was akin to a mass-media television buy—lots of reach.  In the case of Rx companies, actually, 100% reach.  But the analogy to, say, mouthwash breaks down when it comes to specific messaging:  the Sales Rep has the flexibility to deliver an adoption message to a new practice doctor (who has never prescribed in the drug class before), a switching message to a doctor more loyal in her prescriptions to a competitor, and even a trade-up message (for a new & improved version of the drug on the way) for a current heavy prescriber of the brand.  TV doesn’t offer this “customized behavioral messaging”—at least not without big bucks for multiple campaigns or executions. 


For us, the lesson in this partial analogy is simply this:  what the Pharma marketers have learned is that even when you can mass-cover a market, the same message will not yield all the volume the brand wants…or requires.


So, getting back to TV effectiveness, the real question goes something like this:  What behavior will net the biggest return within a given population, for a given period of time?  More than anything else in a Creative Brief, this is the question we should do our best to answer; develop messaging aimed squarely at that behavior; and then construct media plans to maximize the coverage against the “volumetric population” who will be most likely to exhibit that behavior.  In this way, we avoid the TV media “effectiveness illusion.”


Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820
fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971
fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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