Thursday, February 07, 2008

How Does Time-Spent Correlate To Sales?

I recently had the privilege of presenting to the ARF.

The topic? Why is time-spent with a brand’s messaging becoming as valuable as the number that see it.

It was a short presentation, twenty minutes. I started with a question that no one knew the answer to – How much involvement can an advertiser buy for $1M?

The presentation was designed to show how the question can now be answered.

Everyone agreed that it was an important question. After all, time-spent with a commercial message can now be measured on digital platforms. If the viewer initiates the interaction with the commercial, then time-spent becomes an accurate measure of that viewer’s involvement with that message.

In itself, time-spent would appear to be a rather important metric. It seems fairly obvious that, given the choice, advertisers would rather have consumers spend more time with their brands than less.

Not surprising, the question that always arises, arose.

How does time-spent correlate to sales? (As if that would be the only reason why time-spent should be measured in the first place.)

Obviously, the answer is, it depends. On what? Well, the quality of the commercial message itself. How persuasive was it?

Someone could be entertained for the entire length of a commercial and not be moved to buy a thing. Conversely, if the message were crafted differently, a complete view could lead to an enormous increase in sales.

Time-spent itself doesn’t determine sales. But, then again, neither do exposures.

Both depend on the quality of the message that one is either spending time with, or, exposed to. And yet we have come to believe that a certain number of exposures will lead to a certain amount of brand lift. Perhaps that’s just to justify the enormous budgets we request for media.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to believe that a certain amount of time-spent will also lead to brand lift. If for no other reason that the time you spend with one brand is time not spent with another.

That seems valuable in itself, doesn’t it?

So, why such resistance to it as a metric?

The fact is, time-spent data now exists for both online and VOD platforms. As it seems to offer an intrinsic value, we’re now working with publishers to sell time-spent to advertisers.

Not instead of CPM, but in addition to. One does not replace the other.

Being the first in, these advertisers will be able to start making the correlation between how much time is necessary to spend with a brand’s messaging before the sales needle starts moving.

Who knows, they may even find they'll be able to limit the amount of exposures needed.

Which in retrospect, may be the real reason why the resistance to time-spent exists.

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