Defining Catalytic Media; Beyond Standard Opportunities

Let's look at some numbers, shall we?

According to various industry research tools, approximately 40% of online advertising dollars are allocated to search. That leaves approximately 60% allocated to online display ads. Of that remaining 60%, approximately half is allocated towards ad networks. This means that about 30% of total online advertising dollars are allocated towards non-search and non-network inventory. That 30% gets allocated towards the portals, the targeted content sites and what I like to refer to as "catalytic media."

The catalytic media that I refer to are the elements where buzz is created. These are the tools in the toolbox that are effective only through strong strategic input and a fundamental understanding of the behaviors and tendencies of the target audience. Catalytic media refers to media that is becoming increasingly important as a means of supporting brand messaging made in primary formats and as the audience continues to fragment its time and shift toward on-demand content delivery. This is the "new" media, where standards are still being developed and new ideas are welcomed.



Let's face it; online display advertising has become mainstream, but what about social media, online video, mobile and gaming? These are the areas of interest to me -- and these are the areas where we will still see exponential growth rates over the next 10 years as they become mainstream, or as mainstream as they can be in a highly fragmented environment.

Measuring these media formats is where the majority of attention needs to be focused in the coming months. The question is not whether these formats will be used by advertisers -- we all know that online video and mobile are a must for advertisers over the next two years -- but how will we measure the response and effectiveness of these formats? For now, most marketers are still focused on impressions and click-through, but that will inevitably shift as more people begin to rely on two more important metrics: Time Spent and Brand Favorability. Time Spent is the new metric that Nielsen is focusing on and one that I find to be of the utmost importance. Consumers probably spend more time with a computer in today's environment than they do with a TV. Mobile is probably a close second -- and as people start to interact with more video content on their phones, time spent will become more and more a measure of engagement. The more time someone spends with a media format, the more you can understand that they are affected by the messaging on that platform. Brand Favorability can be affected as well. If someone spends time with the brand and this time spent has a positive effect on their impression of the brand, than that platform was successful at influencing the brand metrics, which are in turn effective at driving the most effective measure, which are sales. At the end of the day, no matter what metric you find to use for your brand, it's all about whether that metric is an accurate proxy for delivering sales.

These catalytic media formats are the ones that drive brand favorability after a message has already been exposed in one of the primary formats, such as TV, print and broad online. I never meant to say that you should launch an idea in these formats, but you should definitely use them to support your message. Catalytic media are for conveying brand attributes, not introducing a brand in general! Testing these formats is what makes it difficult for advertisers, but that issue will work itself out over the coming months as more brands test the waters, laying the groundwork for the coming years. Additionally, the development of standards in these formats should make it easier in the coming months.

So when you start to allocate dollars in your media plans, go beyond the 70% allocated to search and networks, and go beyond the portion you allocate to Yahoo, MSN and AOL. There are important ways to speak to your consumers beyond these obvious players -- and your clients will thank you for it when you are driving sales for them!

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