Media agencies are being challenged to effectively leverage numerous new marketing communication platforms. While many of these are digital, some represent newer, more effective ways of using traditional media. There is wide variation in what we know about media delivery and impact.
Millions of dollars are being invested in improved measurement of established media. For example, Nielsen Media Research's commercial audience ratings tools have the potential to raise clients' confidence that they are getting what they paid for - definitely a move in the right direction.
We've been challenged with measuring the effects of word-of-mouth marketing.
And we're finding out that when talking about impact, for many categories, WOM is far ahead of what's in second place. Proxies for WOM, e.g., mentions in blogs, bulletin boards, and e-mails, are now routinely measured and, in some cases, supplemented with more traditional tracking approaches such as interviews and diaries.
The new digital media are highly measurable - both from a delivery and response perspective. So, measurement within the various media silos is getting better. We are improving at measuring exposures. We have a very good understanding of frequency distributions, e.g., for a television schedule, how many consumers are reached once, twice, three, four, or more times.
And, through modeling, we have developed a very good understanding of the contribution of the individual media types.
But the bigger, more important issue, at least in my opinion, is where do we stand in measuring the effects and delivery of communications forms in combination? What is the net effect of consumers being exposed to a schedule that includes a variety of media such as television, radio, magazines, and online video? Are two television exposures and one Internet exposure as valuable as two Internet exposures and one television exposure? How substitutable are different types of exposures? A television exposure versus a Web banner? A Web banner versus a radio exposure? Do banners work harder in the presence of television?
We certainly know that no media form works in isolation. But we are just now starting to scratch the surface of this issue. Improvements are coming quickly. Major marketers are beginning to embrace the new single-source media measurement systems (such as Apollo). Where direct measurement isn't possible or affordable, data fusion is gaining increased acceptance, such as with the recently released Nielsen/NetRatings fusion of television and the Internet. Through modeling, we are observing the symphony that's taking place as new media interact with traditional media across response nodes.
But we need to know more. We need strategies for learning. Where variation for specific forms of media has been lacking (and responsiveness therefore has not been measurable), we need to test widely varying levels. Where response is felt to be overly subtle, we need to seek out more sensitive response measures. We need to design tests to reveal how the alternative communication platforms work together to drive brand demand.
I believe this is the next big wave, and my surfboard is waxed and ready to ride it.
Charlie Rutman is CEO of MPG North America. (Charlie.Rutman@mpg.com)