Commentary

Smart Reach Is More Than Just A Numbers Game

As a veteran of the online video advertising business, it's become harder and harder for me to imagine what it must be like to not be hyper-aware of every piece of ad content I'm served online.

When I'm surfing a website, I can usually guess what contextual and behavioral data was used to serve me a particular ad, I'd bet money on what data is being recorded when I click to watch a piece of long-form branded video, and I'm disappointed if there isn't at least some option on an advertisement that invites me to engage and interact.

I can't help it. I know too much.

The problem is that I spend so much time reading, talking shop, and presenting on topics about reach, targeting and just about every other online ad concept under the sun that sometimes I catch myself getting sucked into the industry bubble. 

The truth is, I'm still a consumer. I can still be swayed and engaged by advertising and word-of-mouth recommendations. (This is part of the reason I'm so passionate about what I do; I know it works.) 

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To beat my "insider's" handicap, I've found a good way to make sure to stay grounded; I force myself to understand data on reach and engagement as they relate to real-life situations. After all, behind all of these success metrics and engagement data lies the age-old question inherent in all forms of advertising: What affects buying behavior? 

I'm a firm believer in the idea that "smart reach" really just means that your relevant, engaging content is being seen again and again by the right people, at the right time, in the right places --  the online video quad-force, if you will. That's why it still amazes me why any brand would agree to blast out a campaign to generate 100 million untargeted impressions, when there are ways to drill down and smartly target a specific audience to generate 50 million targeted, relevant impressions.

Call me old-school, but I am of the mindset that in online advertising, you should get what you pay for.

Of course, I'm thrilled when I read campaign reports with close to 40% interaction rates and 20% completion rates, but like all my colleagues in the ad biz, I am adamant in fine-tuning our recipe for success in online video. The bad news is that understanding every part of the human brain and what techniques and messaging strategies affect buyer sentiment and behavior is close to impossible. The good news is that because targeting technology has grown almost concurrently with the explosion in online video -- and the growing comfort level of consumers in broadcasting their likes, dislikes and demographic information to the world -- the digital space is truly a marketer's playground.  

Sure, we may never know whether a musically inclined high school student watched an episode of HP/Intel's "Live Beats" series and put the HP Envy laptop with Beats on his graduation gift wish list, nor will Old Spice ever know if a college freshman watched one of its video ads, tried out the body wash, and ended up meeting the girl of his dreams as a result of his new, more manly scent. What online video interaction metrics and smart targeting technology does help us determine is how to track the probability of hypothetical situations like these. Here, marketers are armed with real-time data to help them make real-time decisions on how effectively sites deliver their target audience, if their call-to-action needs some adjustment, or if the content just isn't sticking. 

So as a good chunk of consumers curl up with their laptops this fall TV season (yes, a study by Retrevo found that 23% of Internet users under the age of 25 actually watch most of their TV online), it will be interesting for me to watch this season's hits and misses. Of course, I'm talking this season's batch of online video ads and online branded entertainment series. Are they smart, targeted, and reaching me at the right time and right place?

Luckily, we're all qualified judges.

1 comment about "Smart Reach Is More Than Just A Numbers Game".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, October 6, 2010 at 11:13 a.m.

    It drives me crazy when I read definitions of reach that revolve around content that reaches the right audience vs. the the right audience reaching the content.

    In the same sense that all media has always been on-demand (there has always been an off button), reach has always been a matter of the audience reaching the content. People tune in for their favorite content, but nobody tunes in for the ads.

    The reason advertising can't produce audience reach is because no one reaches for it. In fact, we've equipped ourselves with the means to avoid it - even if it means paying extra for that DVR or spam blocker.

    You're absolutely correct that content can induce and produce reach, but that definition of reach simply doesn't extend to the adjacent advertising.

    Want some proof? The article above is content that those reading it have reached. But the banner ads that surround it haven't reached anyone.

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