Get Pop-Culturally Informed

I’ve become acutely aware of how easy it is to get pop-culturally informed. When you see Procter & Gamble promoting its home-care Web magazine on TV in conjunction with scenes from “The Cat in the Hat,” you know the film — and everything associated with it — will cause a communal stir. This has me thinking about how much trends influence media buyers’ actions. Think media buying is all about site research and reviewing old media kits? Think again.

Undoubtedly, consumers are hungry for the latest trend in toys, electronics, fashion, and the like. Media buyers are hungry to know how these consumers interact with the media, specifically their entertainment and communications preferences. Buyers use media research reports on where specific audiences spend their time. The reports give them a good indication of where they should place their ads to harvest the desired consumer attention.

Audience trends can make or break a campaign. A couple years ago I developed an online marketing strategy for an auction-style travel site. It was just before September 11, and the travel industry was trending upwards, particularly on the Web. My client had asked me to look into affiliate programs as well as link exchanges (a great way to improve site ranking on search engines). The project included researching all existing travel sites. Given the state of the industry at the time, that meant compiling a list of thousands.

While the travel industry was thriving, dominating a significant portion of Internet users’ time, offers to implement an affiliate program or a link exchange were looked down upon. Because travel was trending upwards and I had a plethora of sites to choose from, I was able to make an unpopular buy. Lucrative future investments in my agency were assured.

How does maintaining an awareness of audience trends affect media buyers today? Take recent reports (however confusing) that the number of young male television viewers is on the decline. Loyal TV advertisers will think twice about the media they invest in, but how buyers buy online is also likely to be affected.

According to the Nielsen Media Research report, the decline may be partly due to video games’ increased popularity. With a little deduction, that data may also suggest a resulting increase in audience metrics where online gaming sites are concerned. Such a trend could pilot buyers to include a few gaming sites in campaigns targeting Generation X males.

Take a look at the current situation with online P2P networks and the digital music industry. Some buyers still shy away from the advertising opportunities offered by adware companies that bundle software with music-download applications. But the excessive publicity surrounding Napster’s return could have them singing a different tune. The attention could direct more music fans to software companies that still offer free music. Those who are OK with contextual advertising via partnerships with music-download sites could soon be enjoying access to a whole new audience of unique users.

The beauty of media-audience trends they’re far from arcane. Often cited in industry news reports, their high-profile nature makes it easy for marketers to stay informed. Buyers can’t rely on sites to notify them every time their visitor numbers go up. They must make the necessary assumptions, and take the campaign research from there.

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