Justify Your Existence in 60 Minutes (or Less)

Have you ever had one of those bang-your-head-against-the-wall-because-you just-don’t-get-where-in-the-world-the-other-person-is-coming-from days? One of those situations in which you ask yourself, “Was that a clone of the person I saw in the past five meetings, or is it possible she simply didn’t pay attention five times in row?” In this business, I can almost guarantee you have. I had one just the other day.

In this particular situation, we’d been engaged in planning nearly two months. We’d attended meetings at the offline agency. We held our own, here and at the client’s headquarters. We worked with the client’s internal advertising group. Our account people documented everything, while we media folks generated deck after deck covering all manner of reasons why it makes sense to allocate marketing dollars to the Internet. We talked of being in lockstep with the traditional shops, planning and buying, to make everything go off seamlessly. In short, we’d navigated the planning waters as best as we could, only to receive that fateful call: “I need you to put something together for me justifying why I should include the Internet in next year’s plan, and I need it in an hour.” (Most of you are nodding your heads right now.)

Invariably, this question comes from the lowest person on the totem pole. He typically has familiarity with offline media, but no real idea about online. All he knows is he has a presentation for his boss and needs to justify something “innovative.” After all, part of his bonus is hinged to innovation. So the wheels are set in motion. Hypersonic motion.

The first thing to do is yank the handful of bullet points we feel most strongly about out of the previous decks. When we suggest, the response is, predictably, “No, I’ve already looked at that.” (Yeah, right.) “Just send me some quick stats and rationale.”

Concurrently with beating our heads into walls, we think, “How can we put this into a context such that this person who knows offline media will understand the justification?” Answer: translate into things she understands. Put it in offline-speak.

Competitive Expenditures

One thing all marketers understand is competitive spending. It’s one of the most fundamental aspects of a market-and-category assessment. All clients do it or require their agencies to do it for them. (This type of thing would have been in the first of the decks previously cited.) When in doubt, try to point out their competitor, considered by your client to be the Devil incarnate, is outspending them and reaping the rewards. It will usually be received with a slow, knowing nod; a squint of the eye; and an opening of the wallet.

Media Consumption

At this point we’re thinking more about liquor consumption than media consumption, but don’t discount this fundamental metric. A quick assessment of where your target audience spends its time consuming media can lead to quite a compelling set of bullet points.

A run via MRI’s Upfront 2003 netted data suggesting our demographic target indexed high across all media consumption quintiles for the Internet except Light Usage. Beautiful. Conversely, the target indexed very high as light TV viewers. Beautiful again. Print and newspaper quintiles fell nicely in line, and we were able to build a case that a TV-heavy schedule would underdeliver upwards of 60 percent of their target. Mixing in another medium (ahem… the Internet!) would go a long way toward balancing the planned communication delivery.

Of course, this person is unlikely to digest a quintile analysis as easily as we media folk, so back that up by contrasting media consumption in terms of hours per week and/or month.

Tip to the wise: Any online media person worth his salt has this chart on hand at all times (ideally for most demographic cuts). The discrepancy between the Internet and print (our usual competitive medium) consumption is often 10 to 1 or greater. We’ve seen more eyes pop open with this one than any other.

Reach and Frequency

Since we’d done all the work in those prior decks, of course we have prototype plans at various budget levels. From the prototypes, we can pull some general delivery numbers as icing on the cake. While recognizing the power and wisdom behind a media mix (in our franticly typed email response), we’re able to call out our specific medium’s performance from an audience-delivery perspective. Committing to paper that the client can hope to reach a specific percentage of their target a set number of times for a defined dollar amount can seal the deal. All the aforementioned rationale is great, but when tough questions are asked, this often serves as the answer.

This is not to say we necessarily have a great deal of confidence in the numbers these systems kick out (just as we remain skeptical of those for TV and print). That’s a topic for another day. This is simply what we have to work with at the moment.


If you’re ever faced with a fire drill like this, remember to hit the high points to elicit both emotional and logical responses: what the competition’s doing, what their target audience is doing, and how many within their target audience you can affect. With hard work and a bit of luck, one of the buckets they fill will have your name on it.

House Update

I received spam this week with the headline: “You can buy land on the Moon!” (sadly, I’m not kidding, see http://www.buylandonthemoon.com/). At this point, I believe the land on the Moon will sell before my house.

Join us at the Jupiter ClickZ Advertising Forum in New York City on July 30 and 31.

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Vector graphic of a pair of headphones draped over a studio mic.