Ye of Little Faith Part Deux

Last week I wrote about a meeting I had with a very senior media professional who simply refused to believe that the web and Internet in general were viable media vehicles. That incredulity was based primarily on the fact that he, himself, rarely made use of digital media.

This week I want to discuss another way a lack of faith is manifest among the advertising community. This lack of faith is not borne of a solipsistic market sampling of the self. Rather, it is because there is doubt about the value of interactive media compared to those media with which a client has more familiarity.

Recently a client who is in charge of a program in support of which I’d done an online promotional ad campaign expressed doubt that she was getting "bang for her buck" using the Internet as the primary medium to reach consumers. I was asked to demonstrate to her what it would “generally” cost to reach the consumers she was looking for offline instead of online.

Why did she ask this? The client had just spent close to $10 million on television. As far as they knew, there were no sales that could be tied to television exposure. To the best of their knowledge, they didn’t grow their email database or get people to sign up for their newsletter as a result of the television ads either. But it is a medium they are familiar with and it is something “tangible ” -- the client could sit down in front of the television with her family, point to the set and say, “see, there’s mommy’s ad!”

For the promotional campaign I put up for them, I had under $80,000 and no other media support. So, we delivered about 5.5 million impressions for the campaign to a very specific audience on some very targeted sites.

Could I tell the client APPROXIMATELY how much it would cost to reach the same number of people using print or TV? At the very least, could I tell her what CPM she might pay in those media?

Well, I pulled some costs for Spot TV, Spot Radio, Network TV, Network Radio, and some business magazines.

In terms of cost, only Network and Spot Radio had lower CPMs when compared to this particular plan. As I’d mentioned, it was a fairly tightly targeted media schedule, so the costs were higher than the average plan. And it was still more efficient on a CPM basis than most other general market media.

But the efficiency benefit is not what this client needed to understand in order to give her faith in the use of online media as a viable advertising tool.

One of the points that needed to be made to the client was that even if she could get a comparable number of impressions in other media, could she also get a comparable number of responses or registrations for the promotion she ran? How much would it be worth to her to have a causal relationship between her media and its results? If this client were to do a promotion in print, she would only be able to afford to run one insertion in a magazine. If it’s a monthly, it would take almost 5 weeks for the reach to cume, to say nothing about the amount or level of interaction. And if she were to run an ad on television, she’d only be able to afford to run one ad. I'm fairly certain that the client would not get much in the way of sign-ups for a promotion if they ran only one ad on TV...

But, still, when confronted with the tangible and glamorous yet uncertain results of television or the tangible and unsexy yet verifiable results of the web, the client was still inclined towards television.

Which leaves me wondering, are general market advertisers really interested in moving product, or do they just want to have something cool to show their friends and family when everyone is home for the holidays?

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