The tyranny of reach; and how Australian Advertisers are in terrible danger of walking straight into its trap

Apples_and_pears apples and pears.  anyone with a suggestion on how to directly compare every form of media that exists is invited to contact the AANA.  suggestions on Middle-East Peace are also welcome.

news – via B&T – at the end of last week that the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) is forming a sub-committee to "bring media to account".  according to the article, the Media Reference Group will be tasked with "creating a tool that can compare all media with an 'apples versus apples' method."

good luck with that.

you can only sympathise with advertisers' frustration…  how do you compare different and diverging media offerings?  the caveats and conditions that you have to put on any calculation make it – to all intents and purposes – impossible; and more – and more rapidly changing – media options only makes this harder over time.

but there's two very related things that are very worrying about the announcement.  the first is the statement – by ANNA boss Scott McClellan – that advertisers are "frustrated with claims from all media that the level of consumption is stable … there are only a limited number of eyeballs.  how can numbers be stable if the number of media is growing?"  hmmm.

second, the example that McClellan uses when he observes that "in terms of TV advertising it used to take six weeks to reach the target audience now that is pushing out to 10 weeks.  for premium inventory there is limited access so we are having to do so over a longer period of time, so rates are going up.  all this is starting to grate."

there.  he said it.  look closely.  "it used to take six weeks to reach the target audience".

ah, reach.  and the tyranny of it.

it links both the key issues that are wrong with last week's statement because (1) the frustration is that it's getting more expensive to reach more of the people more of the time is absolutely true, but there's no counting your way out of it (fragmentation is, unfortunately, a bitch like that) and (2) because reach is no doubt what the group is mistakingly trying to measure.  and that's why the statement fails to understand the apparent contradiction of more media but stable consumption of media.

reach isn't – in the main – falling.  in fact in many ways it's going up.  because we're consuming more media more of the time; whether its watching TV with a laptop in our, well, laps … or glancing at posters with a mobile app in hand.  we're also creating unprecedented levels of media ourselves, but that's off piste right now.  the point is that it is these behaviours that are keeping media reach – in many instances – stable.  reach isn't what's falling, attention is.

and this is what's most worrying about the statement.  the group claims that what AANA "are hoping to achieve is some agreed principles for indicating the criteria on which advertisers will buy going forward."  I hope for their sake that they choose not to base that criteria on reach.  because there's a lot more of it around and therefore a lot more to buy – and be under no illusion, premium access to reach will maintain it's price-tag.

this is the tyranny of reach.  it is, as Admiral Ackbar would say, a trap.  as long as it remains our default method of measurement, our modus enumeri if you like, we will eternally be lamenting our collective inability to stretch fewer resources over more places in more ways.

the problem for advertisers, and indeed for all of us, is that we need to focus our attention on things we can measure that count.  things like engagement, or influence, or sales.  but if we think that comparing and evaluating reach across media is hard let's not even start on any of these.  and no at the back – econometrics doesn't count because it doesn't universally measure all media opportunities; too many a good media has been taken off of a schedule because that particular computer model said no.

the bottom line is that you simply can't compete on reach.

well that's not true… you can.

you just won't win.

One response to “The tyranny of reach; and how Australian Advertisers are in terrible danger of walking straight into its trap

  1. I had the exact same thought when I read that article “oh no, group of advertisers are going to try to standardize media so when they buy every media can be bought and measured in the same way as TV” (whats the deal with advertisers loving TARPS and TV measurement panels?)

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