Reach and Frequency, Jamaican Style

It’s 82 degrees, not a cloud in the sky; a gentle breeze is blowing across nothing but miles of white sandy beaches. Here at the Grand Lido Hotel in Negril, Jamaica, this super-inclusive resort offers an incredible selection of activities, including wind-surfing, snorkeling, water-skiing, sailing, cliff-diving, and lot’s of sun and fun. The Caribbean-style food is spicy and plentiful, and you’re never more than 5 feet from a bar serving a selection of native rum-powered drinks. This place has paradise written all over it.

At this point, you might be thinking the good people of ClickZ accidentally had their email distribution mixed up with a Condé Nast Traveler e-zine. Before you click over to AA.com to book a flight to Montego Bay, you’ll have to take my word that serious work is underway regarding the future of online marketing.

I know, I know, you’re thinking this guy is nuts for taking his laptop on vacation. I certainly planned ahead and wrote a column on another topic before attending this conference, sponsored by Forbes.com, called “Online Marketing Leadership Exchange.” After the Web reach and frequency (R/F) presentation last Thursday, I borrowed a ThinkPad from our gracious host Lauren Wray to knock out a new column on this important topic.

Using a Common Language

Why is Web R/F such a hot topic in online ad circles? Look back three or four years. We came out of the gate talking to clients about online marketing with unique terms such as “guaranteed impressions,” “click-throughs,” and “instant trackability” with server log data. We might as well have been speaking Greek, given that for the last 40 years, marketers have heard media terms they’re familiar with: “reach,” “frequency,” and “gross rating points” (GRPs).

Now, with the advent of the first online R/F tools from Neilsen//NetRatings and Atlas DMT, we’re beginning to speak in a language traditional marketers understand when we request online receive a seat at the consideration table.

Is this just more jargon in a long line of technospeak gimmicks so we can carve out a percentage of the budget? That’s the immediate reaction from most traditional marketers, who are extremely protective of those precious budgets. The last thing they want is someone approaching their dwindling pot of TV or print dollars with a carving knife. I know from my own experience with R/F projects this might appear as another justification for dollars. Yet with a little digging, there’s a greater underlying story.

How Does Web R/F Help the Cause?

Simply put, Web R/F provides a better picture of the true effectiveness of our online buys. The perspective is no longer how many impressions can be delivered, but how many unique consumers can be reached within our target audience. To make our efforts deliver impact, we can now measure and optimize by knowing what frequency we can generate against that target. We can understand what level of effective reach our buys can generate as we have a better view of unique audience and GRPs.

One concern of many marketers when considering an online plan is the long list of recommended sites. “Don’t we get a lot of overlap?” is a common refrain. The answer is no. Though you can look at duplication of reach with site analysis tools such as @plan and see a lot of sites on a targeted plan have low duplication (usually in the 10 to 20 percent range), bear in mind that approach only looks at a buy that covers the entire site, in theory — while your ad buy doesn’t.

With a Web R/F tool, you can look at the overlap of delivery of just your ad buy and see most will have an overlap of less than one percent, according to an Atlas DMT analysis. That makes a good case for why you must extend targeted buys to a large number of sites to develop significant reach.

Web GRP Equals TV GRP?

From a measurement perspective, there are still plenty of issues to overcome before we can adequately compare apples to apples. From an analytical perspective, remember a TV GRP is a projection of an audience, whereas often a Web GRP is measured from server requests driven by customer behavior. The difference is push versus pull. Of course, the ad industry has never concurred a TV GRP equals a radio GRP equals a print GRP, and so on. The reality is there are intrinsic aspects of varying media we recognize and utilize when considering the elements of our overall marketing communications mix. Why should the Web be any different?

What About Creative Impact?

Again, there are aspects of online, for now, we can’t equate with TV. But when was the last time you could interact with a TV ad and buy the product with a few clicks? If you’re still having a hard time comparing the Web with other media types, implement a weighting system and factor in aspects for creative impact, message real estate, branding, and direct response. If the campaign has a strong emotional brand-impact objective, perhaps weight TV 10 percent higher than Web. If you need a deep level of information, Web should get a 15 percent edge. It’s up to you. Just don’t dismiss online because you can’t get “statistically sound,” a phrase I recently heard from a real media hardhead.

Time to Get All-Inclusive

With Web R/F measurement, we have a good foundation to begin proper analysis for media mix recommendations. Shouldn’t we consider all options during the initial decision process for our clients?

Next time you start a media plan, check into Web R/F. Just so I can ask if you included the Web. I want to hear all of you say, “Ya, mon!”

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