Media Exchange Rate

If I asked you what a banner ad is worth, your answer probably would be, “It depends.” If I asked you what a television commercial, a billboard ad, a store display sign, or a radio spot was worth, your answer would probably be the same.

And your answer would mean that worth depends on the comparative success of each of these media. Similarly, as more online ad forms are introduced, there arises this question: “What is the true value of online media compared to offline counterparts?”

Is it true that offline media are more trusted than online media? If so, is it because users trust the offline media more or simply because they know these media better? All research, in fact, indicates that offline media, like television commercials and newspaper ads, do enjoy the greater share of their audiences’ trust.

But in future, it will be difficult to distinguish between media players, to analyze where one drops away and the next picks up the message. And it will become even harder to measure the comparative and “true” value of media types.

More and more dot-com companies are seeking offline communication channels to achieve a position in the “real world.” It’s not unlikely that we’ll soon see a Yahoo clothing collection or eBay glassware on store shelves.

Why is this likely to happen? Because it would help online brands establish an even more solid brand position in the consumer’s mind by reaching beyond the already crowded online market. And, again, because offline branding still inspires more consumer trust than online marketing. So what is the value of the ten-by-ten-inch space the eBay-branded glassware occupies in the supermarket compared with an onscreen banner ad? Nobody knows.

But let’s look at the idea in more depth…

Consider the introduction of WAP (wireless application protocol). Soon it’s likely that shoppers, while strolling supermarket aisles and perusing the shelves’ contents, will find themselves receiving a call on their mobile phones. Activated by the customer’s position in the supermarket, the call will be about a special in-store offer. The call will not only have been activated because the shopper passed by a crucial trigger point, but because the WAP system will have known that the shopper actually needed the item related to the offer.

For example, the call might be about a Coca-Cola offer: Get three bottles for the price of two. The call will have been triggered when the customer entered the beverage aisle and, most importantly, because the WAP system understood that the customer in question was a Coca-Cola drinker.

Now, what is the price of such a space one that allows a brand to communicate one-to-one with a customer via the display on his/her mobile phone at the very minute the user would be in the mood to purchase? Its value must be high, probably much higher than that of a billboard ad!

The introduction of many new media to the consumer gives rise to an increasing demand for a true comparative media valuation. Right now, we may as well be comparing bananas with apples, and grapes with lemons. We have no true idea of what the value of WAP messages might be, of the floor space in the supermarket, of banner ads, television commercials or brand names on T-shirts. We need some understanding of an exchange rate for online and offline media.

Once a reliable media exchange rate has been introduced, it’s likely that marketers will be able to create amazing media strategies. These plans will exploit a delicate understanding of consumer potential, awareness, trust, geographic parameters, socioeconomic limitations and relationship to the product in question. The mix of offline and online media won’t be coincidental: It will be determined by data that analyzes what works and what doesn’t, if trust, for instance, is the key objective of the campaign rather than awareness.

What I’ll call a “media exchange rate” would make every brand marketer’s life easier. And hopefully it would create a balance between two worlds that currently exist far too far apart in most media plans.

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