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The Brittle Bones of Media
By Erwin Ephron

Why Reach isn't Reach any more

My kid's favorites are Dinosaurs. They run right past the sea anemones, which barely leave a smudge, straight to those big white bones.

There's a lesson in media planning buried with the fossils: Media has a skeleton too. It's called Reach and Frequency. Those bones hold the softer stuff,  Receptivity, Attentiveness and Engagement. And like the time-bleached Dinosaur, media's bones are getting old.  

Lighter Than Air

Have you noticed the epidemic of lighter than air research in advertising? Measures like brand resonance, consumer engagement, inattentive attention...  all because people are avoiding advertising.

The problem is not with Print. That's an off-line version of Search. Readers skim and stop. If an ad is of interest, readers read.

The problem isn't Radio either. Radio intrudes but is hard to avoid because you can't shut your ears.  If the PPM in your pocket hears a Radio you will hear it too.

Viewers Turn Their Heads

The problem is with TV and seeing, because you turn your head and close your eyes.  That means some people Nielsen counts as viewing are not seeing advertising.

We understand this, but not its significance. It means reach, a major reason we buy television, isn't reach anymore (if we're talking about people seeing advertising).

Today it takes more than one TV exposure for a consumer to see an ad. But Reach at a frequency of two costs too much to be an option.  Half of viewers account for 75% of all viewing and the other half, 25%. Trying to reach light-viewers more than once means reaching the heavy viewers 5, 6 and 7 times. That's what wastes the money.

Buying more TV to build frequency to increase sees-the-ad reach is a dead-end, but there is a solution. Those problematic light viewers are average Radio listeners, so substituting Radio for part of a TV schedule can balance message frequency across the entire TV audience and restore TV's lost reach.

Duplication Planning

This is not a "radio if there's extra money" option. It's using radio to make Television work better. It's called duplication planning.

Mixing radio and TV makes great sense, but until now we've haven't had the data to prove it. The 2005 Arbitron PPM Houston database has detailed measurements of both TV and Radio exposure from the same panel. It is ideal for TV/Radio duplication planning and is used for the following analysis.

A major agency was asked to prepare two plans:
  1. A typical high weekly reach TV schedule for one of their advertised brands targeting adults 25-to-54.

  2. A modified plan shifting 25% of the TV dollars into Radio, again focusing on weekly reach of target.
The TV only plan achieves a weekly reach of 38.  The TV/Radio plan increases the reach to a 51. An advantage of 34%. This is the mix effect we have long suspected.

But those reach numbers are exaggerated because there are TV viewers counted as reached who may not have seen the advertising.  And we are counting Radio exposures as equal to TV exposures.

We correct this by discounting each exposure by 35%, to a value of 0.65. This makes two assumptions. First that a TV viewer's eyes are not on the screen during the commercial about a third of the time, and that all radio messages are heard, but that sound only is worth only 65% of sight and sound together.

The adjusted weekly reach for the TV-only schedule is a 33. The adjusted "sees and hears" the message weekly reach for the mixed TV/Radio schedule is a 43. The Reach advantage of the adjusted mix schedule is 30%.

Today TV Reach requires more than one exposure. But TV Reach at any threshold frequency above one is unaffordable.

Radio, which reaches light TV viewers, is far more cost-effective than TV in delivering that second exposure.

That is why a TV/RADIO schedule will easily out-perform TV alone in reaching consumers with advertising.

Erwin Ephron is an authority on advertising and the father of "recency planning." His fresh ideas about how ads work today have changed the way campaigns are planned throughout the world. Erwin

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