Monday, July 19, 2010

Is Reach and Frequency The Answer For Online Video?

In a recent column in Advertising Age, Michael Zimbalist, VP-research and development operations for the New York Times, proposed a new standard metric for online video called WRPs (vs. GRPs now used for television).

WRPs will be based on reach and frequency. According to Zimbalist, this will allow media buyers to buy online as they currently buy TV.

While I agree that a standard metric would be nice (even a sub-standard one would be nice at the moment), I question whether it should be based on reach and frequency.

Reach and frequency go back to TV's definition of success – size. How many were exposed to the message. But online isn’t about size. With control shifting to the viewer, the fragmentation of the audience, the number of options available, online is less about how many and more about how long.

How long did a viewer spend with the brand, not how many were exposed to it. In the past, it was share of voice = share of mind = share of market.

That was because before digital, we could not measure time spent with the brand. Now we can. Which is why with digital, rather than share of voice, it’s share of time that equals share of mind = share of market.

So I would suggest that the proper calculation for WRPs would be reach and view duration.

If a 30-second spot is exposed to 1 million people, 3 times each, we falsely assume that we have 90 million seconds of time spent with the brand. But let’s say that through the measurement of view duration, we find that each viewer watches only 5 seconds. What this means is that we really only have 15 million seconds of time spent with the brand.

That's a big difference.

If time spent is of importance, and I believe that the previous example proves that it is, then I would rather know how long people are “engaged” with my commercial than I would how many times they were “exposed” to it. After all, a 30-second spot viewed in its entirety by a million people, would give me 30 million seconds of time spent with the brand. Twice as much as the 15 million seconds in the previous example.

Reach is important. Frequency, less so. Replace frequency with view duration and then Mr. Zimbalist just might be on to a standard that we can all use.

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