Why Media Revenues Won't Ever Be Driven By Time Spent
There has long been a refrain in the media industry that various sectors deserve more advertising spend than they currently receive. Generally, it's accompanied by an implication -- and sometimes an outright declaration -- that at least some of a medium's “rightful share” of advertising spend is being wrongfully held by the Big Dog in the room -- TV.
Typically, we've heard such claims from the online community -- and more recently from the mobile community and others, such as email and social media. It's also a claim that has been made by analysts, albeit in slightly different terms.
Now, I'm not about to declare that one medium has any kind of entitlement to more or less of the overall advertising and marketing spend of the country’s brand owners. The market is an open one, and if TV or any other medium is able to snag any amount of it -- no matter how disproportionate it may seem against whatever measure -- then all power to it. I think it's called capitalism. It's for marketers and their agencies to determine the best use of media and advertising dollars based on available data -- and of course the buying and selling skills of the respective parties.
However, the argument continues to be made that because a given medium accounts for a given proportion of total consumer time spent with media, this proportion should somehow be reflected in the allocation of media budgets. It's a point that has been made many times (often by highly respected individuals), and repeated often.
But to my mind it is a mantra based on a flawed logic. It's an argument that simply doesn't stack up when examined objectively, because it assumes that all media deliver the same experience to the consumer; the same opportunities for engagement and conveyance of a message; the same opportunities to an advertiser, and the same spectrum of contexts in which it can be experienced.
This assumption is not true. One can no more make a direct comparison between TV and mobile than between TV and social media, despite all the activity and excitement in the newly emerging area of social TV. All communication channels offer their own unique combination of strengths and opportunities to different advertisers seeking to achieve different things. It's one of the reasons why the whole notion of campaigns run across platforms to increase efficiency has evolved.
To assume that one hour spent using a medium is the same and no more or less valuable than another is at best simple-minded, and more to the point, wrong.
In my time at Ball State University and now at Media Behavior Institute, I have been involved with a large amount of research into time spent with media and the context in which it is consumed -- some of which has ironically been used to support the very point I'm now railing against.
However, while it's obviously important to understand how much time people spend with their media of choice, such data is a starting point.
It needs to then be put into the context of when that time is spent with those media; the sequence in which media are commonly used and for what purpose. It's this much more complex mosaic of data that can provide insights that determine how advertisers -- or more accurately, their agencies -- can derive value from specific approaches to the use of different combinations of media.
Effort put behind an argument for more money being allocated to any medium on the basis that it deserves some kind of temporally-based parity with another represents time wasted. It will never succeed. In the end, it is only by building the distinct and powerful case for the medium that it will achieve its full potential as part of the media mix.
And the more we listen to Wall St. analysts and others who tell us that time spent is the significant measure for what a medium should be looking to achieve in terms of revenues, the more trouble we’ll be in. We already know that Wall St. doesn't get everything right – don't we?