Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Have Advertisers Really Lost Control?

There seems to be a lot of blathering on these days (including this blog) about how consumers are taking control over what they watch and when.

Most blatherers claim that there is a direct correlation between the control the consumer has gained and the control the advertiser has lost.

I don’t see it that way.

The reason is simply because there are more then two groups — consumers and advertisers — in the equation. Once you add in the creative agencies that create the ads, the media agencies that place the ads and the media that runs the ads, then the final answer as to who has lost control and who has gained it, changes completely.

It's not simply a one-to-one correlation.

The key is to remember that in the digital marketplace, as the consumer gains control, the advertiser gains knowledge. This is due to the return path capabilities of the digital platform. Yes, digital technology gives consumers the chance to skip commercials and watch what they want when they want.

But at the same time, it gives the advertisers exact information as to who is doing what.

So, advertisers know if people actually watch the commercials they are exposed to or not. What’s more, they know how many of the thirty seconds that they paid good money to have produced and to be watched are actually watched.

With knowledge comes power. For the longest time, advertisers have misused that power, thinking that the knowledge they gained over what consumers were doing could be and should be used against the consumer. “Oh,” the logic went, “now that we know that they’re skipping ads, let’s find a way to prevent them from skipping ads.”

This always seemed, at least to me, to be a perfectly good waste of time and resources.

The only way advertisers can regain control is to give the consumer complete control. And then, use the knowledge gained from the consumers' actions to financially control the others in the equation – creative agencies, media agencies and media.

A type of control the advertiser hasn’t enjoyed since the start of advertising.

For the first time ever, advertisers know how many of their exposures turn into actual interest on the part of the consumer. Or, not. They know how much of their thirty second commercials are actually being watched by the consumer. Or, not.

In other words, they now know how much of their budget is actually being wasted. Or, not.

You would think that this sort of information would embolden advertisers. Instead, it seems to have petrified them. Perhaps they’re just in a state of shock to find out that it’s so much more than just half of their advertising that isn’t working.

Reality is often difficult to accept.

It was once said that to be successful, you must see reality as it really is. Not as you would like it to be.

The digital data that is available today allows advertisers to see reality as it really is.

If advertisers aren’t looking at the data and holding their media and creative agencies accountable for consumers avoiding their advertising, they have only themselves to blame.

Not the consumer.

After all, by giving the consumer control, the advertiser has received a gift. The gift of knowledge.

Whether, and how they use it, is still to be determined.

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