Monday, September 03, 2007

From Impression-Based Marketing to Involvement-Based Marketing. How Ready Are You?

The signs are becoming increasingly more evident that the advertising industry is evolving from an impression-based business model to an involvement-based business model.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s interest in looking at TiVo’s viewer time-spent data—which measures how long a viewer is involved with a commercial—is just the latest case in point. While Crispin is the first non-media agency to focus on viewer time-spent, they most certainly won’t be the last.

Time-spent also gained credibility with Nielsen Net/Rating’s recent announcement that they will start measuring time-spent rather that page views.

Add to that the rise of social networks and the pundits now claiming that the digital economy is rapidly becoming the “Relationship Economy.”

And relationships are about? That’s right. Time spent. Need proof? Just ask your spouse.

But the question is, as viewer time-spent with a message—which can now be measured in over 35M homes offline and over 59M homes online—continues to gain in credibility, what are advertisers doing about it?

Most, very little.

In fact, if asked, most advertisers will tell you that they are unaware that their media buying agencies already possess viewer time-spent data. Or, that it’s currently being used in an attempt to plan and buy media more efficiently.

But is that truly the best use of time-spent data? Should it be used to make media more efficient? Or, creative?

Granted, exposing a particular commercial to the greatest number of relevant viewers is the media agency’s domain. But the amount of time the viewer decides to stay with the message, once exposed, is not. That’s the responsibility of the creative agency.

Or, at least, it soon will be.

It’s only a matter of time before Marketing Directors take a look at viewer time-spent data; and seeing that viewers watched, say, only 10% of their commercial, start questioning why they’re still paying full-fare for the other 90% of the spot.

And it won't be long after that before a Marketing Director walks into the agency and says, “Listen, what if instead of paying you for the amount of time your team spends creating the commercial, I pay you for the amount of time the viewer spends watching it?

What happens then? Well, that’s when the other shoe drops, doesn’t it?

After all, instead of paying for effort, advertisers will be paying for outcome. Instead of labor-based fees regardless of results, agencies will be working for results-based fees regardless of labor.

The hue and cry from the agency side will, no doubt, be tremendous. The reasons why time-spent compensation is ill advised will be many. It is, after all, not in the best interests of most agencies to see the compensation model change at all.

But they’ll really have little choice in the matter.

Because the fact is, Marketers are starting to understand the value that viewer time-spent offers them. There are only 24 hours in a day. Which means the more time a viewer spends with their brand’s messaging, the less time they’ll have to spend with their competitor’s brand messaging.

It doesn’t require a large leap of faith to believe that the longer a person is exposed to a brand message, the greater the brand’s impact is on that individual.

Where a leap of faith is needed now is for an agency to see the value that time-spent also offers them. For years now, agencies—at least the good creative agencies—have been looking for a way that good work could be worth more than bad work.

And now advertisers are saying that they’re ready to define good work as work that involves viewers. What’s more, they’re willing to pay more to the agencies that can create involving work.

You would think agencies would all be jumping at this opportunity at once. But don’t count on it. Most, in fact, will deny it’s an opportunity at all. Evolution, after all, happens slowly.

Thomas Huxley, a biologist and contemporary of Charles Darwin’s, perhaps put it best when he said this about evolution, “New truths began as heresies.”

It'll be interesting to see who the heretics are among us.

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