Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thinking About "Reach" In A New Way

We all know that “reach” is currently thought of in terms of media. In a recent survey of 2,047 marketers and media buyers, “reach” was still considered the No. 1 criteria when framing their media plans.

Less than half of these marketers and media buyers ranked “engagement” among their top five criteria when buying media.

When it comes to determining the effectiveness of media, it seems “how many” are exposed to a commercial still outweighs “how long” they actually watched the commercial for.

And, maybe that’s the way it should be.

Media really has little to do with “how long” somebody watches a commercial for. That is the creative agency’s responsibility. The responsibility of media is to deliver the message to the people. Once a viewer clicks-in to watch the commercial, the responsibility regarding how long the viewer's involved with the spot transfers to the creative agency.

But with the amount of transparency and measurability now available on the digital platform, reach and engagement have the chance to morph into one another.

After all, reaching someone doesn’t just mean being in front of them. It can also mean getting through to them, connecting with them. Which starts to sound a lot like engagement, doesn’t it?

The old definition of “reach”, which basically meant an impression, seems like a fool’s errand on the digital platform. Creating relationships between brands and people is where the dollars should be focused.

But to do that, the industry has to suffer through a period where they admit that most of their commercials don’t truly reach anyone. The fact is, most commercials are considered necessary irritants by most viewers. 74% of respondents to a recent survey said in-stream ads were intrusive. One half of those surveyed said that they physically stop watching the video once encountering an in-stream ad. 15.3% of viewers leave the website altogether when encountering an in-stream ad. And up to 84% fast-forward through an in-stream ad when they have the chance to do so.

Less than encouraging, to say the least.

Of course, in-stream is just another way of saying intrusive. The industry uses the term “in-stream” as it sounds less offensive. After all, to intrude is to be rude. And nobody wants to be considered rude.

But as control shifts to the viewer, so to will our ways of reaching them. If the survey results are accurate, it seems that the best way to reach someone on the digital platform is to let them reach us. Let viewers opt-in to messages and videos of interest, some of which will be commercials.

Oh, yes, the reach (impressions) will be smaller. But at the same time, the reach (engagement) will be greater.

“Who in the hell would opt-in to an ad about refrigerators?” you might say. Well, obviously anyone whose refrigerator just broke down. Or, is in the process of remodeling their kitchen.

Now when it comes to this person, what type of reach is more effective?

Exposed reach? Or, engaged reach?

Chances are, most would prefer the latter.

And, if that’s the case, then advertisers declaring that reach is still their No. 1 criteria, makes sense.

Which means as we switch from impression-based marketing models to involvement-based marketing models, we won’t need to throw away the word we’ve all grown accustomed to.

As long as we can all come to an agreement that it no longer means what it did.

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