Monday, July 07, 2008

Digital influence - Online is the most influential medium

Eyeballs is the primary measure of choice of all mass medias - how many people viewed a television program, listened to a radio station, read a newspaper or magazine, or visited a website.

It's a great measure for the advertising industry as it's relatively easy to quantify and track over time and simple to value.

It's also easy for advertisers. They simply pick a demographic, choose the programs that attract the most eyeballs (and divide by two) and lay down the cash.

When it comes to reporting the process is equally simple - the cash invested divided by the number of reported eyeballs (divided by two) equals your cost per contact, and can then be compared again the number of sales or actions taken to provide a view of the advertising's ROI.

However the basic reasoning is flawed. Eyeballs, even targeted to specific demographics, do not guarantee engagement, influence or effectiveness.

This is where the June 2008 Digital Influence report comes in.

Digital influence
After surveying 5,000 people in England, Germany and France, Fleishman-Hillard Research determined that in terms of influence the internet has double the influence of the second most influential mass medium - television. Radio was third and print trailed far behind.

This was calculated using a combination of the time consumers spend on each medium and the importance attached to each in their daily lives (charts below for UK).

Major conclusions
The report reached five major conclusions, which I've paraphrased here:
  1. Organisations significantly underspend ad dollars on the online channel.
    It's time to rethink the media mix, and not simply rely on advertising agencies to pick the channels. Many ad agencies still do not 'get' the net and, in any case, receive higher margins on other channels.
    Note that I do not entirely agree with this conclusion - I'd like to see advertising measured in terms of reach rather than dollars. Television can be an expensive medium to use and therefore, even if online is your major medium in terms of reach, your TV ads could cost significantly more.

  2. There are different types of online behaviour - marketers must formulate the right approach for maximum effect.
    The report distinguishes 5 different behaviour types, research, communication, commerce, publishing and mobility. People have different goals in mind when engaging in different behaviours and recognition of this should impact on the design and message of advertisements.
    Personally I'd add 'relaxation' and 'networking' as behaviour types as well.

  3. Depending on the involvement level of decisions, people use the internet in different ways.
    Certain decisions are more heavily influenced by online than others - such as travel, consumer IT purchases and political choices, which all tend to involve significant online influence, whereas charitable donations and utility selection choices don't.
    I've not seen a compario

  4. People see the benefits of the internet, but still have strong concerns that need addressing.
    Security, privacy and content quality/accuracy are the top concerns of internet users. These need to be addressed as a baseline in all online engagement.

  5. Different countries/cultures use the internet differently, requiring different approaches. If you're marketing across cultures and nations, be aware that it's not one-size-fits-all. Culture does have a large impact on the style of usage of services such as blogs, wikis and mobile internet - backed up by local access costs and differences in behaviour.

Key learnings
My key learnings out of this study were that:
  • Traditional media still work well to create awareness, however online is the most effective in generating an action or change in behaviour
  • Internet is still growing in reach and influence, all other mass mediums are shrinking
  • Print is becoming more niche focused
  • The marketing mix needs to be rethought - not in terms of medium, but in terms of goals. If awareness is the goal, the current mix still delivers effective outcomes. If trust and action are the primary goals, online needs a much higher weighting
Last word
To give the report itself the last word...
The Internet today is the most important source of information for millions of consumers and organizational stakeholders, impacting personal and corporate reputations, brand perceptions, product consideration, buying decisions and the management of issues, among other things.

Beyond having a robust Web site that meets the expectations of today’s digitally savvy consumer, all companies need to monitor their presence on the search engines, their Wikipedia entry, and online conversations involving their organization, brand, or issue.

Beyond that, it is becoming increasingly essential for organizations to engage and interact directly with audiences online and through mobile handheld devices.

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