Monday, January 14, 2008

Becoming Impression-Agnostic Before It's Too Late

Tomorrow, when you go to work, try something different. Don’t give a damn how many people see your advertising.

Really. Tomorrow make it a point not to worry whether three thousand or three million viewers end up seeing your television commercials.

Instead, go to work tomorrow worrying about something even more important. Rather than how many see your commercials, worry about how much time they spend with them.

From the limited amount of time that each consumer has to dedicate to advertising on any particular day, how much of their time did your commercials earn?

5%?

20%?

None?

Becoming impression-agnostic allows your thought paradigm to shift. Instead of only aggregating the number that are exposed to your advertising, you’ll be open to also aggregating the amount of time that viewers are actually involved with it.

If you’re running three different thirty-second commercials, the total possible amount of involvement time per viewer is ninety seconds. What was your advertising’s Return on Involvement (ROI 2.0?) on those ninety seconds? If consumers watched forty-five out of a possible ninety-seconds, that would mean a Return on Involvement of 50%.

Will you consider that to be a good commercial ROI?

Or, will you demand more?

If a commercial is a promise (from your creative agency) of viewer involvement (which it is), then shouldn’t you be allowed to pay said agency less if the promise isn’t fulfilled? If the Return on Involvement for the commercial is only 50%, should the agency only get 50% of its fee for creating that commercial?

Preposterous?

Afraid not.

During a session at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show, called “Reinventing Advertising”, the panelists talked about the renewed power of TV advertising, mostly due to the TV server data in the hands of cable operators.

One of the panelists, a Comcast executive, indicated that they would be willing to share more of the digital data that they were accumulating. But then, sounding a bit like Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”, he implied that “Agencies can’t handle the truth.”

Or, in this case, “the truth” the data will expose.

A Starcom media agency executive, responded brashly, “Bring it on!” Which, of course, besides reminding one of our current President, misses the point completely.

You see, the kind of data that Comcast can now offer includes viewer start and stop times for individual commercials. In other words, viewer time-spent with the actual commercial.

Unfortunately, it appears that the time-spent data will not be altogether encouraging. When given control, viewers tend to watch only what interests them. And, while that occasionally happens to be a commercial, more often than not, it’s everything but.

Which means to “bring it on,” may soon leave this media agency exec with data that says the ads aren’t working. And, in turn, with little or no creative to try and buy time for.

Impressions, while becoming more difficult to aggregate, are still relatively easy to buy comparable to buying time-spent with a commercial. The fact of the matter is you can’t buy time-spent with a commercial.

One has to earn it. And unfortunately, I think most of us have forgotten how to “earn” anything in this business.

So the sooner we all start thinking about it, the better.

Which is why I suggest tomorrow.

Because as what’s deemed to be important switches from how many saw the commercial to how much time a viewer actually spends with the commercial, everything that everyone thinks they know about the craft of advertising will change.

Hopefully, for the better.

Only time, or this case, time-spent, will tell.

(An article in this week's Ad Age confirms that reach is still the No. 1 criteria of marketers when making their media plans.)

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