Advertisers need to know who is exposed to their campaign messages across media touchpoints to make informed decisions about where to invest. The amount of time spent online and using mobile devices is rising, so advertisers surely need to follow their customers. But it is not that simple. A lack of reliable data on media consumption as well as some unsuitable or insufficient metrics make it challenging to determine impact.
The traditional measures of reach and frequency are at the heart of media trading and evaluation. They measure ‘opportunities’ to see an advertising message, but these all vary in their likely closeness to actual exposure.
This paper moves beyond these measures to explore how time can be incorporated into audience measurement practices for advertising. As a metric, it is quantifiable, applies to any medium and fairly simple to implement – it is already used to some extent in publishing and radio. But it is no panacea.
But all minutes spent using media are not equal. Some minutes are spent highly engaged with content and others much less engaged. The challenge is to translate time measures into impact.
Although the figures may tell us that the average person spends a significant proportion of every day using media (12 hours and 8 minutes in the U.S and 9 hours and 23 minutes in the UK), at what point does an ad cut through and register in the mind of the viewer, listener or reader? Data can be misleading, even meaningless if considerable caveats – including those around attention and engagement are not considered.
Homing in on time spent exposed to advertising - rather than time with all the media output - can give a better understanding of impact. For digital media, a viewable impression requires 50% of the pixels to be in view for at least a second. According to this, around 60% of digital ads can be considered physically viewable. But the chances that they are actually viewed far lower. Eye-tracking technology shows that only 18% of viewable ads are looked at, and only 5% for more than a second.
This paper adapts a U.S. study on media consumption and advertising spend to give a more accurate analysis in a UK context by focusing on the time spent potentially exposed to advertising, instead of the total time audiences spend with each medium. It also adds out-of-home (OOH) media to the mix.
Amongst the findings are that TV advertisers are prepared to pay a hefty premium for the time they are buying compared with other media. This is likely due to the fact that only one ad is exposed at any given moment (as opposed, say, to newspapers or websites, where multiple ads are in sight simultaneously), as well as the advantages of sound, vision and movement. Radio is arguably underinvested, as is OOH, while print is broadly in balance. It finds that spend on digital will continue to grow.
Although the value of every minute is different for an advertiser, every ad still has an opportunity to break through in whichever medium it appears.
But advertisers need to consider a range of measures including reach, frequency, time spent and attentiveness when deciding where to invest their marketing budgets.