Monday, November 10, 2008

Does Share Of Time Equal Share Of Mind?

Does the amount of time of time that a viewer spends with an advertiser’s messaging have any impact on sales? And, if so, then is it fair to say that share of time equals share of mind?

My argument would be that it does. The more time that advertisers can get consumers to spend with their brand messaging, the less time those consumers have to spend with the competitor's messaging.

My reasoning?

Time is finite. And while media folks like to claim that with multi-tasking, each day is now 36 hours long, regular folks don’t see it that way. No matter how you spin it, a day has only 24 hours. In fact, if you asked most people, they would claim that days are getting shorter, not longer. Twenty-four hours is not nearly enough to get done all that needs to get done.

So by process of subtraction, if someone gives one advertiser 90 seconds, that’s 90 seconds they don’t have to offer to another advertiser. Yes, I know. There is always another day. But, chances are, that day is filled as well. Which is why it seems that an integral part of advertising in the digital marketplace is to capture as much of the users time as possible.

Now, this goes completely against most thinking in regards to digital advertising. "Keep it short," everyone says. Five-second commercials are better than thirty-second commercials. And, they are right about that when the advertising is offered up in an intrusive manner. Shorter is definitely less objectionable when intruding.

But as digital advertising moves away from intrusive formats, will the thinking also move away from shorter being better? Or, will advertisers start asking their agencies to involve, intrigue and persuade people to stay with them as long as possible, not just for thirty seconds, but two minutes, maybe three?

Naysayers will argue that people will never invest time in a commercial. But what we have found is that people don’t mind investing time if they control the time invested. In other words, when viewers are in control—fast-forward, pause, stop, exit— they don’t mind initiating the interaction with a commercial, knowing that they can leave when they want to. This is one of the reasons that search advertising has been as successful as it is. With search, the user is in complete control.

It’s amazing how well advertising works when advertisers put the the viewers' interest first.

The question of whether share of time equals share of mind can also be approached from another perspective. Each product that we purchase comes with a certain amount of time that must pass before purchase takes place. A new car, for instance, takes around four and a half months. A new computer, on the other hand, requires 15 hours from when we first think we need a new one to when we actually plug it in on our desk.

What takes place within those 15 hours? A portion of that time is spent pursuing options, information and, yes, advertising. Which means that the more time that an advertiser can successfully have the purchaser spend with his product’s messaging; the more of those 15 hours are expended.

Linear advertising always sold the lie that share of time equaled share of mind. The more time that was purchased, the greater the share of mind we all believed. We now know that this was worshiping a false god.

But on the digital platform, where the viewer is in control, beliefs are changing. It’s the viewer's time that advertisers need to earn, not the network's time that they need to buy. An easy transition? No. After all, a viewer's time is finite and therefore precious. Waste it at your own peril.

Now imagine if advertisers started to appreciate the performance value of time-spent with their messages and rewarded their agencies accordingly. The more time-spent the agency creates with a brand, the more money they will create for their agency.

Do you think the quality of the work will change for the better? Rhetorical question, I know.

When asked what makes a good advertisement, an advertising guru once replied, “A good advertisement eliminates the need to look elsewhere.”

An ad written under that criteria would certainly deliver time well spent.

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