Claire Butcher, Media Director at Ogilvy Primary Contact, argues that the traditional planning measures of reach and frequency are just not enough when it comes to B2B media strategy.
THIS MEDIA SURVEY MADE ME THINK.
I was at a major European international research launch earlier this month. The EMS survey looks at media habits for the top 13% of individuals across Europe by income. It is used extensively by media planners working on pan-regional luxury goods, car brands and travel brands.
The performance figures for all the key media were unveiled. There were few surprises.
There was some celebration that the survey now shows usage of digital media platforms including reach of media brands via mobile applications and mobile websites. At last!
And there was confirmation that smartphone ownership (69.4%) and tablet ownership (21.8%) are still low amongst such a high status group.
At the end of the presentation a panel of media agency research boffins discussed the findings and the future of media measurement. These were clever people with years of experience talking about their specialist subject. I was not surprised that they agreed unanimously that reach and frequency is still the key metric for media buyers. Yes, they said, engagement is important too. But trading systems’ primary currency is still focused on the CPM, which is linked back to the same, long-established research surveys.
WHERE’S THE TRUTH IN ALL THIS?
There was, however, a certain amount of pessimism about the limits of media surveys. Do they really give us the truth? In the audience and panel discussion that followed it transpired that research’s age-old problems are becoming more acute.
How does the industry recruit a representative sample, especially of senior and high net worth individuals?
How does the industry reign back the cost of running the surveys? Costs keep increasing and they need to be updated more regularly to reflect the pace of change.
The costs fall heavily on media owners as advertisers and their agencies continue to believe that it is up to them to prove their worth. As media owners struggle to compete and invest in new initiatives, how can they continue to shoulder an ever increasing burden?
The big fear is that if quality decreases because of the need to cut costs ‘truth’ is not represented, and that ever important ‘reach and frequency’ based justification for every media buy becomes unreliable.
The newer but increasingly challenging issue of media fragmentation, although only touched on briefly at the EMS launch, is obviously an even greater problem. ‘Truth’ is even harder to find in an increasingly complex media world.
A LESSON FROM B2B
Reach and frequency is a metric closely associated with TV and print. Targeting specialist niche audiences in B2B, there have always been a myriad of platforms used regularly in a 360 communications program and now it’s even more pronounced. In B2B, we have always had very little research to rely on. The old JICs that were set up in the 80s to research electronics, construction, IT and other media sectors, soon fell apart due to lack of funds and publisher infighting.
So how have we traditionally assessed campaigns and what leads our media planning process now? Aside from the usual knowledge and experience, what is important?
Reach and frequency, via research data, is certainly a starting point. It might help with assessing quality national newspapers and broad circulation management magazines but that’s where it ends. Anything more niche is not covered.
ABC audits have always been useful in the print arena. They can give you trust in the figures you’re given and tell you whether the copies are requested by name or just sent into a void. ABC also audits websites which gives you an idea of a site’s user profile and usage. As the B2B agency member on their Board I am involved in the process of developing the B2B Total Audience Certificate, which combines audit with research to give a brand’s total reach across all their channels. This is an exciting step forward, particularly because it is being tested first in B2B.
At the performance end, we have always been led by results in B2B which feed into the planning process. Traditionally that meant coupons, phone calls and sales. Now it’s about campaign analytics from click through to sign up.
But besides the rational factors behind media selection, plus experience, what else really influences a planning decision?
THE POWER OF GREAT MEDIA BRANDS
I believe it’s all about identifying great media brands.
We all know about the value of brands – we work in the communications industry. There are some very successful niche B2B media brands which are driving forward and embracing new platforms and ways to interact within their sector. Many are doing this in a very competitive environment and in difficult market conditions. There is a certain amount of consolidation happening too and this favours the best of breed.
What constitutes a great B2B media brand:
• Content. Interest, relevance and topicality for its audience
• Channel options. A brand that can be consumed across different platforms; broadcast, community, one-to-one, and face-to-face
• Voice of its industry. A brand that speaks for its constituent members and is quoted in broader media
• Consistency. A brand that maintains its core mission
• Priorities. A brand that always remembers that the reader is more important than the advertiser
• And most important of all, loyalty of its audience. Users that keep coming back; they register/subscribe and interact.
If a B2B media brand satisfies all these attributes, it is a brand that any advertiser should be happy to associate with and spend their advertising budget with.
If it achieves these attributes it should also automatically be achieving the all-important ‘reach and frequency’.
And if a research study were available, it would prove that fact!