Accessing the Critical Moment

In traditional media, planners and buyers are typically only able to utilize two targeting options to reach their audiences in any significant numbers: the “who” (demographics) and the “where” (designated marketing areas, or DMAs). That kind of media planning creates an incredible amount of waste.

Sure, they may reach a lot of people, and most of them might even be in the right demographic group or geographic location. But so many advertisers are communicating with literally millions of people just to reach those precious few who actually need or desire their products. With many media campaigns, the strategy is to build a brand and create desire, but if you aren’t selling products that can be consumed by anyone at anytime, offline mass media can be very wasteful.

I’m not saying offline mass marketing isn’t valuable. That approach is behind the success of many great companies. But advertisers should be saturating the critical moment opportunities, when prospects and consumers are actively seeking what they’re selling or are genuinely in need of their products before they fund less-targeted media programs.

They should be targeting and saturating the “when” factor related to their products. Only after they have fully capitalized on those critical moments should they move on to targeting the “who” and “where” factors. Advertisers should always seek to saturate those media opportunities where targeting and timing intersect. (Of course, if you have geo-specific limitations to your products, you need to look at both the “when” and “where” factors.)

This is where online media shines. Nothing provides as many critical moments as online. It’s why for so many advertisers offline will never perform as well as online. The amazing attribute that online and search-based media have that most offline media lack is the power to target the “when” factor in such volume. It blows my mind that online budgets are still dwarfed by offline programs that don’t deliver a tenth of the value online delivers. How many times have you seen a TV ad that might apply to 1 out of 10 people?

Saturating the Critical Moments

First, discover all the critical moments, or “when” factors, related to your product. Then build a critical-moment campaign around those factors by matching those situations to a universe of Web opportunities. Generally, these situations are best matched to specific content areas.

Every product and service has a “when” factor. For example, life insurance is all about life stages. The “when” factors for life insurance include getting married, having a baby, and buying a house — those times in your life when you realize you have something that needs protection. Don’t forget all the keywords that are both product specific, like “life insurance,” and life-stage specific, like “baby names.”

With car insurance, the “when” factor is when you’re about to buy a car, so auto sites are a perfect fit. With furniture, try moving and real estate sites. Pain reliever? How about the headache, arthritis, and sports injury sections of health sites? For continuing education or 401(k) rollover, try job sites for people looking to make changes in their careers. With electronics, try a site that reviews that particular category of electronics.

True, opportunity sizes vary. You might have to get granular and make many micro-buys to create a significant audience and level of impressions. Yet there’s likely to be a ton of those opportunities. And you definitely have to combine this strategy with your paid search strategy.

However, the point is to saturate those opportunities because consumers are much more receptive to brand messages and more likely to convert during critical moments. The impressions and actions you create in your critical-moment campaign are many times more valuable and efficient from a targeted CPM (define) standpoint.

So, tell your clients about the critical moment and work with them to discover their products’ “when” factor. Access the critical moment where targeting and timing intersect.

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