Making the Case for Interactive Spend

The only word to describe the agency environment these days is “intense.” With upfront presentations less than three weeks away, strategies are being devised, meetings follow meetings, and we’re preparing to commit billions of dollars in advertising spending.

Any interactive media professional with an eye on growing his business must be particularly proactive this time of year. This is when rough budget allocations across media are made. I’ll share some of the arguments we’ve used when speaking with clients to make them feel comfortable about allocating greater resources to interactive in 2005. If you’ve already prepared your “case,” I’d be curious to compare notes. If you’re just putting a strategy together, perhaps this will help shape your presentation.

First, we find it’s particularly helpful to speak a common language with our strategic planning/buying teams, as well as with our clients. You know the currency: reach, frequency, gross rating points (GRPs), CPMs, dayparts, 15- and 30-second television commercials (TVCs), return on investment (ROI), and accountability.

Keep It Simple

Arguments can be extensive, and customized based on client need, but it typically boils down to five basic areas: penetration, usage, creative capabilities, efficiency, and measurement. Not to be too bold, but it’s an open-and-shut case.

Penetration

The argument Internet penetration exceeds that of cable TV has been used for a few months. Look at some of the midtier cable networks that only reach a fraction of the overall cable universe. Internet numbers blow them away. For adults 18-49, we’re looking at 75 percent penetration (comscore MediaMetrix).

Raise some eyebrows at your next client meeting: Compare ratings of the top three network TV shows for a given week against the ratings of top three portals’ home pages (for a 24-hour period, typically how they’re sold). As an example, during one week in March 2004 for ages 18-49, “American Idol” had an 11.6 rating, “The Apprentice” a 9.5, and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” a 9.3. Compare that to AOL’s Welcome Screen, with a 12.8 rating, Yahoo’s home page at 10.9, and MSN’s home page at 8.7. Impressive.

Usage

Looking for those “missing men”? We found them!

In addition to the tremendous numbers that recently came out of the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and Greystone study as it relates to young adults 18-34, look at share of media time across any demographic. According to Media In Mind (a Universal McCann proprietary tool), in the adult 18-49 segment, the Internet represents 14 percent of all media time without email, and 16 percent including email. Compare that to magazines at 2 percent and newspapers at 4 percent. We have ourselves another eye opener.

Now, I’m not one of those people who believe usage and spending should be directly proportional, but the data does give you a good sense of the Internet’s importance in consumers’ lives.

Creative Capabilities

There are many aspects of improved creative you can discuss with clients. The aspect we’re really trying to drive home is streaming media. Take a 15- or 30-second made-for-TV commercial and stream it online. Though some may view this as a bit of a sell out, it’s a concept clients can wrap their heads around. You need look no further than MSN Video (I suggest a live demo for your clients). They’ll understand what you’re trying to describe to them.

Efficiency

Three years ago, this was a problem. Today, the marketplace has settled in an area where the Internet is established as a firmly competitive medium in the efficiency game. As a general comparison, we look at network prime at about $25 CPM, print at $10, Internet at $10, and cable at $8.

Measurement

In addition to the fact the Internet makes sense from a pure media and creative perspective, it also affords the opportunity to gather tremendous amounts of data and monitor/optimize performance. We can gather quantitative data, such as delivery, actions taken, time spent, sales, and conversions. We can also gather qualitative data and track movement in brand health metrics, including awareness, favorability, and purchase intent.

As you can see, interactive marketing is a ruthlessly capable, highly efficient and measurable medium.

I rest my case.

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