The Shortest Distance Between 2 Points

  • by October 18, 2001
The shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line. Let’s call these points A and B. Let A and B represent two vantage points from which to illustrate some of the current absurdities we’re witnessing in media today.

Point A: How long is a piece of string?

Does anyone really know the relationship between media and sales? Up until now we pretty much know that if we spend (enough) money on advertising, there is going to be some (positive) effect on sales. We’ve seen enough spikes following advertising to put ourselves at ease, allowing us to sleep easy at night. Nothing more soothing than knowing the reps will keep sending those Tshatskes; the Knicks tickets will keep coming; Viva Le Cirque. The system really does work…

Or does it?

Perhaps it’s the work of those young Interactive Turks; perhaps it’s a sign of the times…suddenly clients are expecting accountability from their agencies; suddenly clients are asking questions about efficiencies of one medium versus another; suddenly clients are blaspheming by inquiring about optimizing their television, print and radio.



Whilst advertisers may not be fully embracing the online paid media solution, they’re certainly applying the underlying principles that govern it.

Should clients expect accountability from their advertising? Certainly. Now more than ever, they should be getting back $3 for every $1 they spend. The desired result makes sense, but the means being sought to achieve it are somewhat flawed.

The media mix is not a game of Battlebots. It’s not a winner takes all. Each medium has a unique set of attributes and has a specific role to play. Together, the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. The reality is that each medium in the mix is interdependent. For example: Print opens the dialogue. Television lays the foundation. Radio primes the pump. Interactive closes the deal.

Until we are able to conclusively measure and judge each medium’s effectiveness, overall effectiveness should be judged on a global level: Adspend to Sales. It IS that simple.

Which brings us to the second viewpoint (point B): Fish where the fish are

Question: Which media vehicle/property does NBC advertise the most on?
Answer: NBC

It boggles my mind that some clients spend money building their website, but don’t really put any effort behind promoting it. Whilst others who do put dollars behind driving traffic to their websites (generally through the quiet placement of a URL at the end of a commercial) choose to do this predominantly using traditional media.

The idea of reaching someone online with a view to them doing something else online makes sense. In these cases, the click of a mouse becomes the bridge. And yet, we expect people in cars to remember URL’s (, people on subways to tear out web addresses, or people reclining on sofas to rush to the computer (luckily the incidence of two-screen homes is increasing).

The flipside is equally confusing. Whilst we hope people will see-click-purchase online, the reality is that we know they don’t. Sometimes they have to see an online piece of creative multiple times before they click – and even then, a purchase is by no means guaranteed. Furthermore, many purchases result from consumers making their own way to the site (viewthroughs).

Most importantly, what about all those who end up purchasing offline? There are enough of them to realize that until we’re able to accurately track Web-influenced offline spending, we’re only hitting the tip of the iceberg.

After all, we don’t see an ad on TV, drop everything, hop into our car and rush to the store. So why should the Web be any different?

Oversimplification of consumer behavior really has worked against the overall efficacy of the Web in terms of playing a vital role in the evaluation, decision-making, and yes, purchasing process.

Once again, the answer may lie in the joining forces of the media mix in order to gain a holistic view of the effectiveness of the overall communications process. Feel free to fill in as much information into the results grid as possible: use your unique URL’s, customized toll-free extensions, research surveys and advanced reporting to your heart’s content. But also recognize and respect the dynamics and relationship between the different elements of your media mix. When you do, you’ll realize that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

- Joseph Jaffe is Director of Interactive Media at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, where he works with clients including Kmart, ABSOLUT Vodka, New York City Public Schools, Embassy Suites and Sci-Fi. His primary focus is to highlight interactive's value and benefit in meeting his clients' integrated business and branding objectives.

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