Monday, January 26, 2009

On The Digital Platform, All Creative is Just Zeros and Ones

How’s that for a reality check?

The same TV commercial that your agency spent months preparing, and another couple of months shooting, is really nothing more than numbers when it runs on the digital platform.

Did your agency spend a fortune to license the swelling, majestic music from the movie The Way We Were?

Doesn’t matter.

Do all the focus groups tell you that the commercial is a home run and that the right people in the right audience will watch each and every second?

Doesn’t matter.

How about the agency? No doubt they’ve been saying this commercial will work wonders at pulling peoples’ heartstrings as well as their checkbooks out of their pockets.

Again, doesn’t matter.

The wonderful thing about numbers is that they are completely objective.

Which is why I especially like one final number that the digital platform also delivers. This is the number that indicates how long people decided to watch this piece of advertising art.

Whether on average, folks watched 10% of the spot. Or, 100%.

According to this number, people watched none, some, or, all of your commercial. I’m assuming that if your an advertiser, having more of your commercial watched is better than having less of your commercial watched.

Not only because you paid a small fortune to have the commercial produced so, yes, it would be a nice return on your production dollars if people watched it.

But also because the longer people watch, the more exposure you are accumulating for your brand. And isn’t brand exposure why you are paying for all those impressions in the first place?

The amount of time that a person spends watching a commercial is now measured by servers everywhere. It’s just not being released.

The number that advertisers should be most interested in is the number that many advertisers never even see. The number of impressions, on the other hand, are paraded out with much fanfare.

I like the way that Matt Freeman put it about a week ago in a column in MediaPost, “An impression shouldn’t be called an impression if it doesn’t make one.”


To date, according to Mr. Freeman, “digital media has underplayed the very magic that makes the digital world special: consumer engagement.”

The digital platform can measure engagement in terms of time spent with the message. Obviously, this works best when the viewer initiates the interaction with the commercial. When the viewer presses the play button,it means they are interested.

How long they continue to watch tells the advertiser how interesting their commercial was.

If an agency is paid to come up with advertising that captures a viewer’s attention, engages and involves them in the message, and then motivates them to go out and buy the product, well then, you have a damn good commercial.

The digital platform allows you to measure two of these elements that are necessary for success. 1. Did it get the viewer’s attention? 2. If so, did it engage/involve them in the message?

Yes, it’s true; you can certainly involve someone in a message and not end up selling the product. But it’s also equally true, that it’s difficult to persuade someone to buy your product if they don’t first watch the commercial.

Sales will happen, or not happen, after the commercial runs. The chance of a sale happening is better if the commercial is watched.

Numbers aren’t human. They don’t lie.

People either watched the commercial.

Or, didn’t.

Which is why on the digital platform, advertisers should be less worried about how many impressions they get.

And more worried about whether their commercial actually made one.

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