eMarketer: At Work Audience is Elephant in the Room

The concept of daypart targeting online has been a hotly debated issue ever since the Online Publishers Association announced that “daytime is primetime on the web” in January of 2002. For many months now, countless researchers have been hard at work to put some concrete data to the concept, which has resulted in an overabundance of stats and no clear way for marketers to use them.

Enter eMarketer, well known in online marketing circles for making sense out of others’ research, whom the Wall Street Journal asked to put together one definitive report on the subject - “An Elephant in the Room: The Online At-Work Audience.” The118-page report, scheduled to be released today and available from the eMarketer website, presents ample data to “convince even the most skeptical marketer that the online at-work population represents an unprecedented targeting opportunity.”

According to eMarketer, not only is the at-work online audience vast, it is comprised of a demographically attractive group of individuals who have higher than average incomes, educations and proclivities to shop and buy online.

Here are some key findings:

  • Out of a total US workforce of 135.1 million, 37% or 50.1 million regularly go online at work.
  • 37.5% of at-work users are employed by large corporations (1,001 or more employees), and nearly 40% come from small firms (less than 100 employees).
  • Depending on the research source, between 43% and 52% of at-work users are making upwards of $75,000.
  • The vast majority of at-work users (70%) have a college degree or higher.
  • 86% of at-work users have broadband access at their workplace.
  • At-work users spend more time online versus at-home only users, and business executives are particularly heavy users of the Internet.
  • During the course of the entire workday, no other media can deliver at-work audience numbers better than the Internet.
  • At-work users visit a wide variety of websites, from portals, search engines and directories to news and information sites; over 60% of Internet users access news sites at work.
  • 60% of consumer online dollars are spent in the workplace.
  • At-work users are highly engaged while online, and strongly prefer the Internet over other media as a means to get information about products and services.
  • At-work users notice online ads (45% according to one source) and are influenced by them.
  • The at-work population is becoming a coveted audience among marketers looking to leverage the internet as the “primetime” media during the day.

    Geoff Ramsey, CEO of eMarketer, says he was surprised by the consistency of data his firm examined for the report. He says the at work audience is huge (hence the elephant reference), it’s connected via broadband and it’s got money to spend online, all of which adds up to one simple fact: “The internet provides a large and attractive audience for advertisers wanting to reach employed adults during the day.”

    In the introduction to the report, Ramsey adds, “It is no wonder, then, that name-brand web publishers such as AOL and Yahoo! are actively selling their ad inventory by segmented dayparts, similar to how television has been sold for years. There is a move towards the reach and frequency model as opposed to an impression model.”

    eMarketer’s report comes on the wings of a recent OPA white paper, titled “The Existence and Characteristics of Dayparts on the Internet,” which concluded that five distinct dayparts exist on the Internet: Early Morning (M-F, 6am-8am), Daytime (M-F, 8am-5pm), Evening (M-F, 5pm-11pm), Late Night (M-F, 11pm-6am), and Weekends (Sat-Sun, all day). The study confirmed that Daytime is the largest daypart (measured in terms of both total audience and total usage minutes), followed by Evenings and Weekends.

    OPA research also shows that Internet users seek out different types of sites depending on the daypart - Internet utilities, such as search engines/portals, email and chat showed little variation in usage or audience demographics by daypart, whereas content sites exhibited distinct differences in usage and demographics by time of day.

    Usage at Entertainment sites was significantly less during dayparts dominated by Work usage (11%), compared to those dominated by Home usage (15-19%). Usage of News & Information sites showed the opposite pattern, peaking during the Early Morning and Daytime, when a majority of usage is from work.

    Some doubt that the report will abate the industry’s skepticism about dayparts. As Greg Bassett, VP of New Business Development at PinPoint Media, says, there is a problem with the logic of dayparts online in that the concept is essentially unnecessary because of the nature of the medium. “It’s all about impressions,” he says. “I’ll pay to target people any time of day. If they’re online and they see my ads, that’s when I’ll pay to target them.”

    Bassett explains, “Television dayparts exist because of the number of people seeing your ad on TV,” he says. “A 30-sec spot after midnight is viewed by fewer people then during prime time, for instance, yet both ads run regardless. Online you are paying for impressions. If no one is online then your ad does not run, unlike TV. Therefore the number of people seeing the ad could not reach the levels committed to by the sites without the heavy usage during the day. So it is not a daypart at all. This is just another example of the industry not understanding what it does best. Deliver ads to real people. Something TV can't always say is true.”

    Michael Zimbalist, Executive Director of the OPA, counters the above sentiment with two points. First he said, the daytime gets advertisers the most impressions and “there’s some sophistication that can go into your allocation and targeting techniques.”

    ”It’s about getting the right frequency to the right person when they’re in the right frame of mind,” he says, stressing that several research studies have shown that at-work audiences are highly engaged. Citing OPA’s research on media usage at home (people watching TV and surfing the web at the same time), he says that “the exclusivity of media is higher during the day -- if someone is working at 3 in the morning, they may be distracted.”