Old Tricks for New Dogs

When I first started in advertising, I was as an assistant planner on three brands for Nestli Beverage. Needless to say, those traditional brands were subjected to the well-established rigors of traditional media planning.

Using proprietary and syndicated research, the planning team’s first job was to identify a target — their demographics, their general attitudes and proclivities, the activities they participated in.

These sorts of techniques were used to find a sort of “statistical proxy,” if you will, for folks most likely to be intrigued and spurred into action by the value proposition set forth by the advertising for these brands. Since I can’t target behavior, per se, I am forced to target a population cluster in the hopes that the incidence of interest and behavior identified as being relevant to the products I’m advertising is higher within that group than within others.

The promise of the Web, however, is that I will be in a better position than ever before to target based on more of a psychographic profile than a demographic one. More and more, these kinds of surrogates for communicating with the target used in offline media are being replaced as a result of technical advancements in the new medium.

But there are still great things to be adopted from the “old school,” tactics that can be deployed universally across a variety of media and can improve the media’s effectiveness, online or offline.

Given the objectives of the advertising effort, certain communication delivery goals need to be accounted for. In traditional media, this typically translates into specific reach and frequency goals that the media will need to achieve: How many folks do I need to talk to, and how often do I need to talk to them? But, still, that’s not all.

If I’m trying to talk to people about a brand of coffee, when is the best time to do that? Is it morning? Noon? Late night while they’re watching Letterman? And since the product I’m interested in talking to them about is bought at the grocery store, what days are they most likely to be going to the store to shop? Do they get in their cars Monday night to go to the store, or is it Friday, right before the weekend?

Plans could be produced that have “flighted” media running during specific times of the day on specific days of the week. The media was also planned to run at frequency levels deemed appropriate by the communication goals established to achieve the given objective.

Why not apply the same principles online? Much of the ad-serving technology available can allow for such a wide variety of targeting that ads can be served to a certain demographic on a certain day at a certain time.

So, here are the three “whats” to ask for in your next request for proposals (RFPs) and their respective “whys”:

  • Frequency control. If your interest is the click-through rate, which, in spite of what has been rolling through the industry press, including this column, still is a majority interest, controlling for frequency is still one of the most important things you can do. Doing my own research using data gathered from several clients I have worked with over time, I’ve found that between 80 and 90 percent of all clicks on ads happen on the first exposure to an ad unit (banners, mostly). By limiting your frequency to one or two, you will increase the efficiency of your campaign by dropping what are essentially ineffectual impressions. Remember, this just pertains to the strict click-through, direct-response objective. Nonimpulse correlative response to advertising is a different, though related, project.
  • Day-of-week flighting. It will be necessary to first run a test buy or two for your client before figuring out which days are most active and appropriate for your client and product. But once you do, this can be another way to increase the efficiency of the direct responses you get as well as the possible relevance quality of the impression that merely, well, makes an impression and leads to correlative activity.
  • Time-of-day flighting. Now, some direct marketers out there will say, “We’ve been running ads overnight for years, and it’s the greatest thing ever. More efficient, less clutter, the works!” Yeah, well, that’s absolutely true. For TV. Or radio. In broadcast media, inventory is purchased by “daypart” (a certain time block during a 24-hour period). Overnight dayparts (which are not even measured by ratings) are much less expensive than, say, prime time (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.). But on the Web, I’m paying the same price for inventory whether it’s 4 p.m. or 4 a.m. Again, as with day-of-week flighting, I can improve the efficiency of all impressions run, regardless of the direct response or the correlative action instigated.

So there you go. A few tricks learned in the “old world” might just make the “new world” a better place to live.

Related reading