A long time ago, I recall, a fruit drink maker aired a commercial touting that it was a great beverage because it was loaded with “food energy.” That sounds pretty positive, but the FTC disagreed and ordered the manufacturer to create a corrective ad.
In that one, the spokesman pointed out that the manufacturer thought everybody knew “food energy” was just another way to say ... “calories.”
An honest misunderstanding.
I like sleight of hand, but I love sleight of facts. The media business is filled with them and like that spokesman, I always think the people who buy ads are fully aware of media’s trick bags. But maybe not.
Today, The Wall Street Journal pointed out a bragging stat from last week’s Fullscreen NewFronts presentation in which it boasted that one of its shows, “How To Survive High School” has attracted 36 million views in a year or so.
Fullscreen compared it to “Pretty Little Liars,” a buzzworthy series on Freeform (once called ABC Family), which has only 2 million viewers.
So it was said. But as the Journal points out, “Liars” averaged 2.5 million viewers per week, whereas “How To Survive High School” collected 36 million viewers over five episodes, though those same viewers could be watching over and over again.
And “Pretty Little Liars” consists of hour-long episodes with many advertisers, while “Survive” episodes are from 6 to 8 minutes long, typically with pre-roll. The Journal says AwesomenessTV makes the same point about its “Royal Crush” series, which it claims had 2.9 million views for its finale and said that was 300,000 more than “Liars.”
Comparing apples to oranges is not a time-honored tradition in media; it’s not honored at all.
But it always happens because at some point, networks and content creators have to find a way to make their case, and to assume that the person hearing the pitch has also understood the crookedness of the comparison.
In other words it’s not unfair, because it’s obvious, like comparing yearly snowfall totals between Buffalo and Atlanta.
I think people understand that.
For streaming video I think the argument is: Young people are more involved with online video than they are with television; they are increasingly streaming video; they trust and admire YouTube content creators. So that kind of engagement matters.
Even though that engagement comes five minutes at a time.
Some people don’t see it that way. At Advertising Week last year, CBS research chief David Poltrack hooted that measurement unevenness is so rampant that, “Five years from now, people will remember this period for having the greatest amount of advertising money wasted in history.”
But ever since that event last October, measurement has improved. I’d argue, streaming has earned respect, even if putting a number to what it’s delivering takes more calculating than you can do at a NewFronts event with a mini-hamburger in your non-smartphone hand.
It’s always interesting to me that the industry measures billions of views but of material that is just a couple of minutes long.