Aperture: Why the Mix Doesn't Matter

Aperture-SFarrella/ASiegel-Why the Mix Doesn't MatterCable television offers the viewer a smorgasbord of program choices: from Nip/Tuck to SportsCenter, Ancient Discoveries to Reno 911. Given this, you'd think crafting the right cable buy would require heavy-duty data analysis. Certainly, planners and buyers expend a great deal of brain power analyzing ratings, audience composition numbers and CPMS, trying to find the ultimate cable network mix.

What if, in the end, a cable plan could be put together almost at random, delivering the same number of net impressions? What if it just doesn't matter?
We took up the challenge. Looking at groupings of 10 to 15 cable networks with similar primetime program lineups, we delivered basically the same weekly and four-week reach at a variety of different GRP levels.

To begin, we optimized schedules at five differing reach levels on a target of women 18 to 49. We pushed boundaries and varied the network selection in a number of different ways but kept overall GRPS the same, avoiding loading weight onto any one network. The result? Same reach.

Having a little media fun, we then wrote the names of 33 cable networks on small pieces of paper. We threw them into the air, then randomly arranged them into three equal groups and again built reach curves. From 10 to 70 GRPS, the curves were the same. How is that possible?

During the past five years, average ratings and reach potential of cable networks have become increasingly alike. In other words, there is not as much difference in audience size between what was once considered a "top tier" network and one in the middle. So, does it really matter at all? Maybe we need to redefine what "it" is.

Here's what we found: "It" matters if you define "it" as environment. "It" is the connection between consumer and content. "It" is that which drives what we believe is most important - those aperture moments when the consumer is open to receiving a message.

The first challenge is to uncover the insights that take us beyond demographics into behavior; the second challenge is to identify the contexts in which those insights resonate. The challenge is to find those consumers, in an extensive and continuous manner, to ensure marketplace success.

Young women interested in organic beauty products are more receptive to such brands on like-minded cable networks. Researching their consumer mindsets and cable viewing, we find that networks like Food, HGTV and DIY are more relevant than Nick at Nite, Hallmark and Oxygen. This plays out in the financial services category, too: Examining the mindset and viewing behavior for high-net-worth prospects, Biography, Fox News and CNN rise to the top compared to TCM, TV Land and CMT.

Knowing that there is no delivery tradeoff and that blending a number of networks together enhances our message opportunity, we can use those networks that are more contextually relevant, increasing the likelihood of message receptivity.

For, we could have easily purchased a range of cable networks to deliver the target audience from a numbers perspective alone. However, we would have missed a great opportunity to further enhance our connection with highly engaged floral and gift-giving consumer prospects. By understanding the behavior of the consumer prospect, while still delivering on the plan goals, we developed more robust marketing/media partnership programs on targeted networks within the overall cable mix. Working with core network partners, Food Network, HGTV, Fine Living and DIY, we created interstitials and sweepstakes and added retail channel opportunities that not only complemented the brand's messaging but also built upon the content and context of the cable networks. The overall delivery of the buy did not suffer, pricing was improved, and message receptivity was significantly enhanced.

The practical marketplace implication of this is clear: The ultimate negotiating tactic of "walk-ability" is strengthened by the knowledge that reach will be maintained, and consumer connection achieved, through a wide variety of cable network combinations. Thus, the buyer is empowered to cast a wide net, leading to improved marketplace pricing as well as open apertures to enhanced consumer receptivity.

"It" really does matter, if you know what "it" is.

Steve Farella, president-CEO, and Audrey Siegel, executive vice president and director of client services, are cofounders of TargetCast TCM. (

Next story loading loading..