Commentary

The Location Is The Message

For years, media planners, ethnographers and strategic planners have sought to understand how consumers spend their day, and when, where and with what media they are most receptive to receiving a brand's advertising messages. With that knowledge, they've reasoned, discrete advertising messages can be served at the best intervals, in the most optimum environment and with the most relevant context linking a brand to a consumer's actual lifestyle needs. To date, it's been one of those Holy Grails of the advertising business, and agencies have invested goodly sums in both proprietary and syndicated research to get at the answer of this seemingly idealistic "seamless media plan." Here's how the scenario goes:

Joe's radio alarm clock wakes him at 5:30 a.m. tuned to a local news/weather report. (Bam! Broadcast an ad message relevant to starting his day.) Joe turns on the local TV news channel while he quaffs his morning cup of java. (Reach him with a TV ad impression.) He unfolds the a.m. newspaper, or more likely, clicks on its site. (Serve him a banner or print ad.) He checks his morning inbox. (Send him an email marketing offer.) Then he's on his way out the door (ping him with a mobile marketing message.) Then driving to the train station. (Reach him with a.m. radio drive time.) On his daily commute. (Expose him to transit ads.) And so on and so forth throughout his day -- until he rests his head on his pillow for the only seven-hour respite from the commercial marketing world.

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Planners know they may never truly reach that level of media synchronization across the media universe, but a new research and planning tool hope to approximate that within a medium that can reach consumers in a good number of those places: out-of-home.

True, average consumers spend only about one-fifth of their day out-of-office or out-of-home, but the transitory intervals in between represent unique opportunities to capture consumer attention as they migrate throughout their day. That, in a nutshell, is the logic behind "life pattern" planning, a concept developed by digital out-of-home advertising developer SeeSaw Networks, which today is releasing a major new study showing how various consumer lifestyle groups relate to digital media in out-of-home locations.

The study, conducted by OTX Research, reveals how a dozen of the most coveted of these groups -- clusters with descriptors like "affluents," "alpha moms," "mobile millennials," and "young urban professionals" -- relate to digital out-of-home media based on three important criteria: "awareness" of ads appearing on the medium; its "stopping power" (the ability of ads to catch their attention); and "attention level" (the percentage of people who paid some or a lot of attention to ads on the medium).

The results are encouraging, showing that digital out-of-home media outlets rate on a par with most major media, including magazines, newspapers, conventional billboards and the Internet. Among the major media, digital out-of-home video only ranks behind one medium, its distant second cousin: television.

"It's helping us reinforce the concept of life pattern marketing, which allows advertisers to intercept people as they go through their daily routines of work, home and social," Peter Bowen, CEO of SeeSaw, says of the new research, which has become the cornerstone of SeeSaw's marketing strategy, and which will likely also attract agency and marketer attention to other digital out-of-home networks, as well. SeeSaw is one of several big aggregators trying to make the plethora of vertical out-of-home channels manageable for Madison Avenue, and it utilizes a Google-like online planning and buying system that agencies can use to build schedules based on locations that are likely to reach specific types of consumers at specific times and in specific locations. The new OTX data is being integrated into the system, and while it only segments 12 general clusters, Bowen says SeeSaw is working directly with agencies and marketers to define custom breaks based on their own consumer targeting parameters and geographic trading areas. In fact, the life pattern planning can be overlayed with trading area plans that match consumers with locations that boost the effectiveness of the ad messages, while also increasing the efficiency of the media buy, because impressions are not wasted on locations that are not relevant to a marketer.

To build such a plan around college students, for example, the SeeSaw system draws a radius around their school, including student housing, recreation centers, social areas on campus, as well as bars, restaurants and retail locations within a five-mile area of the campus.

To illustrate how the new life pattern research can be applied, Bowen provided the "Digital Outsider" with detailed data on the "mobile millennials" cluster. If you look at the illustration on this page, you'll see a map with push-pin icons highlighting key intervals for reaching the valuable consumer targets, starting when they leave their homes in the morning and fill up their tank at a local gas station, to the video rental store they stop at on their way home from work or school in the evening.

"The idea is to map that back to where advertisers can most effectively intercept them during their daily life, so that they can reach them in the most contextually relevant environment," Bowen explains.

SeeSaw Networks Life Pattern Marketing- Map

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