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That’s a RaP

You may not think I have a lot in common with Busta Rhymes, but I do. You see, we’re both rappers. Different types of rapper, of course; Busta is a top selling recording artist known for his intricate rapping technique; I work in the Research and Planning team (aka RaP team) at Thinkbox.

The similarities don’t end there. Another thing Busta and I have in common is our passion for spreadsheets*. I’m not one to brag, but I suspect I’m a little more advanced than Busta in this department. (*There is no actual evidence of this.)

In fact, I thought I’d tell you about one of our most valuable spreadsheets. I can sense your heart pounding just that little bit faster…

You may or may not be aware that we have a Research and Planning (RaP) helpdesk and we log every question we get asked in something we’ve imaginatively named the RaP Request Log (you can reach us via or or on 020 7630 2320).

There are many ways to measure the health of TV advertising – investment is at a record high, there’s more and more proof of how it builds brands, tech companies are dashing into the TV space to try and get a slice of the action. The RaP Request Log is less headline grabbing than these admittedly, but nonetheless it can shed some light on how TV is faring and what people are interested in.

The types of requests or questions we get asked are hugely varied; from agency planners wanting to know their burst from their drip to advertisers wanting to get to grips with all of the latest TV innovations or, more broadly, asking for evidence of TVs effectiveness. So let’s do what rappers do best and break it down …

2014 has been a record year for RaP requests, up 130% so far on the same period last year
That’s 600 enquiries to date, which equates to around 3 a day.

Over half of requests come from media agencies
That probably isn’t surprising. We also get enquiries from advertisers, broadcasters, and students too. And sometimes members of the public  get in touch with requests. These include people who want to buy a Rabbit or get their dog in our ad, someone who wanted to buy some dairy products from us but couldn’t find out how, and a chap who wanted us to use a certain song in a TV ad in the hope the songwriter would become famous and fall in love with him (genuine requests).

26% of RaP requests are people asking for more information on our research
This year, the studies which have generated the most interest are ‘Payback 4: pathways to profit’ and ‘Screen Life: TV in demand’, the second in our Screen Life series. We launched the third installment last week, which you can devour here.

Planning and buying requests are next
TV planning and buying requests come a close second to research with 22% of our requests specifically about the nuts and bolts of TV campaigns. Of these planning and buying requests, 26% are from new to TV advertisers, which is another good sign of telly’s health.

On the case…study
There is also a significant demand for case studies showing TV at work, predominantly for examples of sponsorship and interactive advertising, such as campaigns that include interactive elements like second screen apps or campaigns that drive WOM online. To give you an example, we might point people towards the brilliant Playstation case study, which won the Grand Prix award at our Thinkbox TV Planning Awards earlier this year. If you haven’t seen it, why not take a look.

So that’s that. A quick glimpse into what people are after. The great thing about all of the questions logged on our RaP request log is that they provide us with insights that help us steer what we focus on and (hopefully) to improve our service, whether that’s helping to shape upcoming research projects or developing our Thinkbox training sessions (which you can find out about here). Every request is (RaP) music to our ears.



YouTube puts its money where its mouth isn’t

I’ve started a YouTube channel where I post videos of me talking about my pony, which sadly died. Yes, I’m vlogging a dead horse.


Vlogging is a word I still haven’t come to terms with. It is one of several modern portmanteaus that rub me up the wrong way. Vlogging (video + blogging) lives alongside normcore (normal + hardcore), glocal (global + local), labradoodle (labrador + poodle), and twerking (twisting + jerking). If someone was to set up a vlog in which they dressed in normcore while glocally twerking and walking a labradoodle I would probably throw up.

When I was young, I had Smash Hits and its pop stars. My daughters’ generations have pop stars too but now it isn’t just about music. The most popular vloggers – the likes of Zoella and Alfie Deyes (who together are Zalfie – don’t pretend you didn’t know that) – are a new breed of pop star. Video hasn’t killed the radio star and it never will, but we do now have some video stars. Some vloggers attract large followings and, like traditional pop stars, then gain wider exposure in more established mass media like radio, newspapers and TV.

Vlogging still feels like rather a niche word, but soon it may well be on everyone’s lips because YouTube is launching a mass media ad campaign to showcase some of its more popular vloggers (Zoella, Vice News and Slow Mo Guys). TV is central to this campaign with 30 second spots in primetime TV shows, including X Factor.

YouTube is to be congratulated on its decision to start advertising on TV. Obviously I’m pleased, but they are also following in the footsteps of many advertisers who have looked at the evidence we now have and made the informed decision to invest in what is proven to pay back.

However, the rationale YouTube gives for going on telly is a strange one:

“We are trying to show that broadcast TV is not the only route you can go down to reach large audiences and engaged, passionate groups of consumers around almost any niche of content. Irrespective of your brand or the topics you want to talk about, we are able to find it on YouTube.”

If you’re trying to prove YouTube does what broadcast TV does, why bother with broadcast TV? Aren’t you sort of admitting TV does things YouTube can’t? If the claim is true, you would just have to advertise on YouTube to get your point across. QED.

This is the latest in YouTube’s complicated and unresolved relationship with TV. In the early days, it kept saying TV was dead and YouTube was the future. Then, in 2009, it launched a marketing campaign promoting the fact it was home to some proper TV content (with the line ‘YouTube’s got TV’). Then it launched its own ‘channels’. Then a couple of years ago Eric Schmidt said YouTube had ‘displaced’ TV (we were so gob-smacked at the gall of this we blogged about it to put the claim in context). And now YouTube is advertising on TV to tell people they are an alternative to TV.

There’s isn’t a clear logic to this love/hate relationship so who knows what YouTube’s next move as regards TV will be. Maybe a broadcast TV channel?



We’re a diverse bunch at Thinkbox, but one of the things we definitely all have in common is that we rather like watching TV. If someone in an interview for Thinkbox said ‘I don’t watch TV, just not a big fan; I just like looking at Facebook and watching traffic’ then alarm bells would ring. Eyebrows would rise. It’s likely they’re lying, but even more likely they aren’t really us. We love Facebook and traffic too – and obviously we would follow employment law scrupulously – but no likey TV, probably no fitty inny at, er, Thinkboxy (will stop that now).

This week saw the first day of autumn. We spend all year excited about TV, but there are few times in the year when we are more excited about what is beaming from our screens than autumn, because autumn means telly, lashings and lashings of wonderful new telly. We’re autumn-atons.

Of course there’s new telly throughout the year, but autumn is special. It is Upfronts season, which means truckloads of high quality, must-watch shows are just around the corner. Advertisers should be as excited as us too because the incredibly effective, high quality content environment they are investing in gets a massive shot in the arm.

So, here are some of the things we’re particularly excited about – some new, some ongoing. We’ve asked the team to name one or two shows that will be gluing them to the couch. Feel free to add yours in the comments. I know you probably won’t but it would be rude not to ask.

Akeel Mungul, Web Manager… ‘For me it’s The Newsroom on Sky Atlantic. I love the way the writers use real life stories and recent global events (like the hacking scandal or the Arab Spring) and then show the struggle this news organisation has when they try and report the news with no political agenda. Also the awesomely entertaining Crackanory on Dave and the mind-blowing Dynamo Magician Impossible on Watch – the guy’s a freak of nature and I love the way he has fused magic with music.’

Neil Mortensen, Research and Planning Director…’I have a lorra lorra love for Cilla on ITV, obvs the show is quality and Sheridan Smith is amazeballs but I have also enjoyed spotting buildings and scenes in Liverpool – reminds me of my mum and dad and home (they went to the cavern when they were young to see her). And my son Harry and I love 50 ways to kill your mammy on Sky 1. Baz the presenter is a long time Irish TV star but not known over here. He has a real twinkle in his eye. His 701 year old Irish mum is amazing as she gets into more and more daredevil activities like skydiving and snake charming etc. Importantly the relationship between the two of them is unfolding before our eyes and that emotion and chemistry makes for TV gold.’

Visha Naul, Marketing Manager…’I’m over the moon that Boardwalk Empire on Sky Atlantic is back for series five… great fashion, great drama and the production blows me away – much like what happens to lots of the characters. And I’m glad to see Channel 4’s Gogglebox is returning to our screens. Is it sad that I’ve genuinely missed the families and their telly chat? Yes, probably.’

Simon Tunstill, Head of Communications…’I have an increasingly unhealthy addiction to Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on Food Network. I love it when peroxide-spiked, professional sunglasses wearer Guy Fieri takes me to ‘flavour town’. I don’t want to leave. When he eats a burger or taco he especially likes he often says ‘and that’s all she wrote’. I have no idea what he means but I want to start using it. The Strictly line-up has potential for cringe, class and comedy this year and I missed Veep so will be heading to Sky Go to catch up – everything Armando Iannucci has done thus far in his life has been a masterclass. And Channel 4 News –doesn’t excite me especially but I watch it every day.’

Tess Alps, Chair… ‘I watch pretty much everything on Sky Arts 2 – you should watch its recent excellent Rameau documentary on catch-up – but I am especially looking forward to the Benjamin Britten season in November. Then there’s the second series of Channel 4’s wonderfully weird and fruity Toast of London – ‘I hear you, Clem Fandango’. Also, like millions of others, Broadchurch on ITV. If it is even a fraction as brilliant as the first series then it will be fantastic. Olivia Colman is possibly my favourite thing in the world. David Tennant is ok too I suppose.’

Amanda Sweeney, Directors’ PA… ‘It has to be Bad Bridesmaid on ITV2. It is beyond hilarious watching the reactions of the other bridesmaids when the ‘imposter’ tries her best to stir the waters and create drama!’

Leila Travis, Head of Planning… ‘Autumn is my favourite season and the show which signals it is here for me is Bake Off. I love that the show is so quintessentially British, I love Mel and Sue with their infectious chemistry, and I also love the fact it gives me an excuse to eat ridiculous amounts of cake every Wednesday evening.’

Sam Holtmon, Web & Multimedia Executive… ‘I’ve been looking forward to The Leftovers on Sky Atlantic. It’s an intriguing show about the state of the world three years after a global “Rapture”, which caused the disappearance of 2% of the world’s population. The co-creator of Lost is behind it, so I expect to be thrilled, baffled, and questioning the very fabric of existence. My normal way of unwinding. And Homeland on Channel 4: I’m drawn to the relationship between the unstable but brilliant Carrie Mathison and her calm, unreadable boss Saul. Season 4 sees Carrie venturing into Islamabad and Kabul and I expect explosive action, fiendish backstabbing, and plenty of contemplative beard-stroking from Saul.’

Lucy Vandi, Directors’ PA…’Fake tans, weaves and love triangles make ITV2’s – soon to be ITVbe’s –The Only Way is Essex my Sunday and Wednesday evening must watch.  It’s highly addictive and completely outrageous leaving me gasping for air on a roller coaster ride of tantrums, tears and pure unadulterated DRAMA!’

Tomek Lasocki, Planning Executive… ‘ITV’s Downton Abbey: it is like a countdown towards Christmas, which I love, and the Christmas special – a show that I can sit down and enjoy with my mother who watches it religiously and probably thinks of herself as Lady Grantham at home. Downton means we can spend time together and enjoy a programme together. I am also a snob and this fulfils the desire to surround myself with fellow snobs.’

Zoe Harkness (until very recently, Zoe Fuller), Head of Industry Programmes… ‘Grantchester on ITV looked really good when I saw a clip at the ITV Upfronts. I thought James Norton was great in Happy Valley earlier this year but think he is better suited to playing a vicar than the disgusting character he was in that. And the Champions League football on ITV and Sky Sports is a must watch in our house (even though my team isn’t in it!)’

And, finally, me…obviously I agree with all that, plus I must mention Adventure Time on Cartoon Network: a fairly innocuous title for a weirdy dungeons and dragons cartoon series that my daughter is obsessed by and seems to fill up my planner quicker than you can say “Marceline the Vampire Queen”. Educating the East End on Channel 4 is just fantastic, fantastic telly.  My family has a cast iron agreement that we HAVE to watch it together so I’m in big trouble if I have an industry function on a Thursday night. And, finally, The Keith Lemon Sketch Show for ITV2: “Big fat Gypsy Kardashians” is funny before you’ve seen anything.


Why Apple’s Tim Cook is wrong about TV

It has been a while since someone at the top of a big global tech firm has said something ridiculous about TV. Thankfully, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has noticed this and taken one for the team by claiming TV is ‘stuck back in the 70s’.

Ignoring the breath-taking pace of change in TV technology in recent years and perhaps sensing there was too much balanced and informed discussion about TV, he said this:

“TV is one of those things, that if we’re really honest, it’s stuck back in the 70s. When you go into your living room to watch your TV, or wherever it might be, it almost feels like you’re rewinding the clock and you’ve entered a time capsule and you’re going backwards. The interface is terrible… You watch things when they come on, unless you remember to record them.”

Leaving aside the fact that Mr Cook appears not to have heard of on demand TV, let’s actually think about the 1970s for a moment. Back then, the furniture in my living room faced an analogue black and white TV set with a tiny screen and a huge arse, all of 3 channels to choose from, a dodgy signal when the weather was bad, no epg, no ability to record TV and we had to stand up and walk over to the set to change channels.

Today, my living room furniture – like most people’s – faces a large HD flatscreen TV with superb sound and 100s of channels to choose from. It is 100% digital and connected to a computerised hard drive (in my case Sky, but you can choose from Virgin Media, Freeview, Freesat, TalkTalk, BT TV…) that gives me unprecedented control over what I watch. I also have the ability to watch all sorts of TV content on other devices – largely delivered by the internet – or interact with the main set via other connected devices.

I’d say that’s quite a bit of change.

Of course, lots of things haven’t changed since the 1970s. For example, despite the enormous amount of technological development and new things we can spend our precious time with, people continue to spend far more of their leisure time watching TV than doing anything else; the vast majority of it live. It’s as true now as it was when I was worshipping Donny Osmond. So rather than assuming this is ‘stuck’, isn’t it better to ask why this might be? Maybe TV has a timeless quality that people like.

Are books stuck in the 1800s? Is cinema stuck in the 1950s? Is radio languishing in the inter-war years? No. The core way people enjoy all these things, and TV, has remained the same whilst technology has improved the experience. Mr Cook is missing the point, unless human behaviour is also stuck in the 1970s.

People get TV wrong when they allow their excitement about the potential of technology to eclipse their understanding of the fundamentals of human behaviour. TV is at its heart a social, communal activity. People generally like to watch it at the same time as other people because it’s more fun that way. It offers unrivalled simple, easy enjoyment. What people want is great quality content and the choice of how and when to watch. They have that now. They certainly didn’t have it in the 1970s.

Everything can be improved – few companies are better at improving things than Apple and I’d be very interested to see what they might do with the TV set – but this just sounds like yet another technologist thinking that more and more functionality will make TV viewers happier. Yet the only clamour for this change seems to be coming from tech companies who assume that the only thing people want is what they’re selling.

It isn’t about TV being stuck, it is about the fact that tech giants from Google to Microsoft have woken up to the fact that watching TV remains hugely popular and is extremely resilient. Everybody wants to be the gatekeeper in TV to cream off some of the value created by the people who invest in content and Apple is no different.

Fair weather is not TV’s friend

It was January 1989, I was 9 years old and it was cold (the average temperature that January was 5.8 degrees Celsius). Playing with my Christmas presents – the ThunderCats ‘Cat’s Lair’ I think – I had no idea that miles away there was a mysterious organisation called BARB and that it was publishing an analysis of how the weather affects television viewing (it was titled ‘How the weather affects television viewing’ - you’ll need to subscribe to Warc to read it I’m afraid).

Little did I know back then the role that BARB would come to play in my life. For now I research TV and with all the marvellous weather we’ve been enjoying recently, I thought another look at how – to borrow a phrase – the weather affects television viewing might be interesting. Especially given how much TV has evolved over the last three decades.

Good weather is good news for our tans but not so for our telly. For when the sun is shining people – not unreasonably I admit – stay indoors less and so watch less TV. Ofcom also noted this in its recent Communications Market Report. Thankfully though people can take telly with them outdoors these days, but we don’t yet have figures to show if sunshine leads to more mobile TV viewing. I would guess it might.

But we do have figures to show that sunshine leads to less TV set viewing, and the fact that this year has seen such lovely weather is one of the reasons why linear TV viewing has been a bit lower. The chart below plots average monthly temperatures against TV viewing:
TV and average temperatures

As you can see, there’s a pretty clear relationship, although I offer this with a caveat as Thinkbox is always at great pains to point out the distinction between correlation and causality. We know umbrellas don’t cause rain, but there is a strong correlation between their use and it raining. This chart is a correlation, although common sense suggests that watching less TV doesn’t make it warmer, whereas it being warmer might make you watch less TV.

Of course the weather is not the only thing that influences how much linear TV we watch; there are many other factors which affect it, such as digital switchover and the host of new channels it gave people, which increased it, and on-demand viewing, which is probably replacing a tiny bit of it.

And there is also another form of climate which has an influence: the economic climate. Last month, GfK NOP’s UK Consumer Confidence Index nudged into a positive figure for the first time in nine years. Things are on the up and this is obviously fantastic news for the nation and fantastic news for advertisers as they are advertising to audiences who are better equipped to spend. But it isn’t such fantastic news for TV viewing levels because when people have more money in their pockets they go out more. In the mood for charts, I created this one plotting consumer confidence with TV viewing:

TV and consumer confidence

People watch TV for many reasons: to share experiences, to be entertained, to learn and to connect with the world. However it is worth remembering TV broadcasters can make the highest quality, most entertaining programmes, and viewers can invest in incredible kit that makes the TV viewing experience extraordinary, but if the weather’s nice and you have money in your pocket you are likely to go out more and watch a bit less TV. That’s just life. Although, let’s not get too worried if people watch a little less TV a day; TV remains by far the medium people want to spend the most time with whatever the weather – half our media day according to the latest IPA Touchpoints data. So let’s finish with that chart:

Touchpoints media day 2014

Advertising’s dirty laundry

This week’s story that the NPA (Newspaper Publishers’ Association) has served notice on the NRS (National Readership Survey) shows just how contentious and traumatic it is ensuring that our media research systems keep up with the tide of technological development. Rumour has it that the rift has been caused by frustrations over the pace of reform. It’s hard for collaborative JICs to meet perfectly the agenda of each of their diverse stakeholders but it’s worth trying. I’m sure all parties involved regret that they are now effectively washing their dirty laundry in public. But at least they have their hands in the sink and I am sure it will all end up smelling of roses.

Contrast that to certain online drawers. It seems some real-time fibbing has been going on. The automated online emperor is definitely not wearing those new clothes; he has been caught with his pants down and they are looking decidedly soiled.

I refer to the revelations of the nefarious practices and rampant fraud in online advertising. If you’ve missed it, this piece from the Financial Times will bring you up to speed. Or this very frank blog from the Ad Contrarian. In a nutshell, ComScore figures show that over a third of web traffic comes from bots or other ‘non-human’ activity and that most online display advertising appears in places where it can’t actually be seen by anyone.

There is a nasty momentum building. Our cousins at the IAB – who do great work on behalf of us all – have an unenviable job on their hands keeping the murkier online waters from contaminating the squeaky clean areas where advertisers can safely frolic. Something needs to be done before the internet’s pants become impossible to clean. Without some sort of JIC this will be tricky; the onus will be entirely on agencies to impose much higher standards of cleanliness on those dodgy online owners and trading desks.

All of this should make us very thankful to have BARB. Broadcasters are driving change within BARB in collaboration with advertiser and agency bodies, but while maintaining the highest standards and reliability we’ve come to expect. BARB is moving as fast as possible to embrace new technologies – including watching TV via web and mobile – and new viewing behaviours; it will remain the gold standard JIC. They’ve created this film to explain what they’re doing. TV’s pants are clean and very resolutely raised thanks to the laundry skills and strong elastic of BARB maintaining our dignity.

BARB is a beacon for trust and I hope that the wider online industry can reach its own level of BARB-quality measurement. It is in every medium’s interest that brands – and consumers – don’t lose any more trust in the internet and the various forms of online advertising. Facebook’s emotional snooping, the (mis)handling of our data, irritating and irrelevant re-targeting, malicious software, paying for fictional consumers… all of these practices threaten to damage not just the villains but also the many honourable media sellers online, including TV companies.



Is Kim Kardashian programmatically buying native advertising?

I saw Kim Kardashian recently in Cannes. We were in the same restaurant. I was dining on truffled lobster and gulping down champagne surrounded by an entourage of fawning admirers, publicists and stylists; she was having the set menu with some brand managers and the receptionist from a digital agency poor love. She waved apparently.

But I won’t bore you with tales of Kim and me. Instead I want to share with you something I heard recently that I found thoroughly depressing. A marketing journalist told me that the stories that get the most traffic on the website they write for are consistently the ones about programmatic buying or native advertising.

After some Prozac I wondered why this is so. Can there be that much to know about algorithmic buying and advertorials? And why aren’t marketers desperate solely to read about sexy, exciting things like advertising effectiveness and TV or, say, TV and advertising effectiveness? Too much to ask probably.

Anyway, it struck me that there must be so many articles being pumped out and read about programmatic buying and native advertising because no one is really sure yet what to say or do about them; no one has pinned either down to everyone’s satisfaction. I’m not sure everyone even agrees on the definitions.

Marketers are constantly being told this or that will change everything and uncertainty can breed anxiety. You need to look clued up on the next big thing. Clearly not everyone is; I have heard several senior marketing directors stand on stages and admit they haven’t a clue about what programmatic is or means to them.

If in doubt, turn to effectiveness if you want to know what to do with your marketing budgets. It is always a good antidote to uncertainty.

Anyway, I thought I would use my new insight into the topics that marketers want to read about to create the unashamed clickbait gold of my headline. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brand Republic’s servers crash under the feverish interest. But, if it manages to survive the increase in traffic, I’m sorry to break it to you that, like most headlines posing a question, the answer is no and you don’t find out until near the end of the piece.

I learned at our recent Big Think @ BAFTA event that the most effective clickbait headlines inspire curiosity. You deserve some sort of reward for allowing your curiosity to lead you to read this far. So, if you can tear yourself away from reading articles about programmatic buying and native advertising then I hope you will find these sessions from BAFTA equally, if not more, insightful: Ian Leslie on curiosity; Laurence Green, Richard Eyre and Verica Djurdjevic talking about real time data; and Sir John Hegarty and Peter Fincham talking about creativity (all can be watched here at 2 mins 22 secs, 30 mins 30 secs and 2 hrs 3 mins).

Kim might have been at Big Think, but I didn’t see her. She should have waved.

World Cup flexes TV’s global muscles

One of the reasons why Thinkbox works closely with our cousins in TV around the world is because we like collecting Air Miles and trying different cuisines because the companies that most often try to knock telly or to nibble its lunch are global companies. They often try to do so with audience figures, bandying global figures around, which, at first glance, look impressive. TV rarely thinks globally and almost never acts globally.

A good example of this was when Felix Baumgartner downed a can of Red Bull and leapt from space. It was famously streamed live on YouTube and watched simultaneously by 8 million people globally. Globally. The media collectively downed a can of Kool Aid and heralded it as a turning point in the way we consume content.

It was ridiculous. We had reports comparing the 8 million YouTube streams to UK TV show audiences, completely forgetting that this was comparing global with national figures. Egta – the trade body for European TV (and radio) sales houses – looked at how many people watched it live on TV. They got as far as 60 million after looking at some of Europe and stopped counting.

So it is important that telly flexes its global muscles when it can and the World Cup is the perfect showcase – even if it isn’t exactly the perfect showcase of English football’s prowess.

The final could well reach a global audience of a billion. And let’s get this into context. That is not the reported 1 billion+ Facebook users that have opened an account or the Gangnam Style video which took two years to reach two billion views on YouTube. This is a billion individuals watching the same thing at the same time.

But we’re not at the final yet, so here – to put the global joy of the World Cup on TV in perspective – are some figures collated from around the world showing how beautifully it has gone so far:

* 11.5 million Dutch viewers (88.4%) watched their national team’s victory over Chile: 10.2 million at home and 1.3 million in public places.
* A record number of 42.9 million Brazilians tuned in to see their team’s win over Croatia. 81.3% of Croatians watched the game (1.5 million).
* The Belgium – South Korea game was the most watched football game in the history of Belgian television, reaching 3 million Flemish fans (82.8% of TV viewers) and 2.1 million of French speaking Belgians (82.1%).
* A peak of 20 million (71% share) watched England v Uruguay in the UK, the highest peak audience on any channel since the 2012 London Olympics.
* 27.3 million (84.2%) viewers in Germany tuned in to watch Germany defeat the US.
* 15.3 million Italians (82%) watched the game between England and Italy.
* Greek viewership peaked at 81.3% audience share for Greece’s win over Ivory Coast.
* 68.5% of Spanish viewers (11.2 million) caught the game in which their national team was defeated by Holland.
* The French victory over Honduras scored 56.3% audience share in France or 15.9 million viewers, amongst whom 1 million saw the game on digital platforms
* Even in countries such as Sweden, where the national team didn’t qualify, 2.64 million viewers (48% audience share) watched Brazil-Mexico.
* The US’s first game drew more than 11 million viewers – the highest-rated football match ever shown on ESPN – and nearly 5 million on a Spanish-language network.
* The 8am start of Australia’s match against Chile still didn’t discourage 2.3 million Australians from watching the game.

Word of mouth is like the final click

Attending the Cannes Media Festival from your desk isn’t fun. Instead of enjoying a glass of something pink and chilled and rubbing shoulders with stars of stage and art direction you are viewing a tweeting frenzy full of clickbait hyperbole and Tony Robbins style soundbites. Be brave, you need to fail to succeed, unleash your originality…

But witnessing Cannes from your desk is made all the less enjoyable when it is used to launch a piece of nonsense research and you have to watch it pin-balling round Twitter while – to misquote Churchill – the truth is still looking for its pants, let alone putting them on.

The research is by the lovely people at Google and its central claim is that word of mouth has the biggest impact on purchase decisions, not media. It was an online survey and it came up with a top 10 points of influence on buying decisions. They were:

1. Word of mouth
2. Retailers and store visits
3. You Tube
4. Twitter
5. Company/brand websites
6. Facebook
7. Pinterest
8. Newspapers and magazines
9. TV and movies
10. Search

Does this strike you as odd? It should do. In fact it should strike you as pointless because it exists in a make-believe world where word of mouth happens in a vacuum.

Most people don’t spontaneously recommend a washing detergent or a sports brand or a retailer without having experienced it in some way first. So what about the influences on word of mouth? Well, all the other nine in the top ten are influences on word of mouth to a greater or lesser extent.

Also, it is very strange that – with all the time and effort we’ve spent understanding the psychology of brands, long-term memory encoding and heuristics, measuring behaviour from panels to brain scans – Google should commission an online survey asking people what they think influences them. We know people can’t answer this truthfully or with meaningful self-awareness.

Rather hilariously, one of the quotes used in Google’s write-up of the research is “YouTube is one of the best places to go online to watch in-action videos of vehicles I am considering buying”. Those are my italics.

None of us would deny that word of mouth is important but we all need to understand what drives it, and we know that paid media, TV in particular, is crucial. Word of mouth is not the first stop on the consumer journey. We’re well beyond giving credit to the final click; Google, better than most, understands that what happens offline drives behaviour online. It should apply the same understanding to word of mouth.

I need a pint of something pink and chilled.

Under exposed

I do love media measurement. Now, I can guess the image of me you might have after I launch into a statement like that, but I can console myself that there are literally tens of others like me in our industry that are earning a crust out of excitement for the way we measure what media the country is consuming. If we researchers can do that and still maintain our tough guy image then we are winners.  And it’s a tough job as the UK public isn’t making it easy. They are always up to new stuff and never seem to have enough time to just…well…be researched.

And it is with this faith in my peers that I wanted to applaud the IAB and their efforts at further refining the definition of an online ad exposure. Nobody wants to pay for ads that could not possibly have been seen and, as David Ellison from ISBA has noted, it begins to move online ads closer to and make them comparable with other media that offer the ‘opportunity to see’ as the basis of an ad measurement currency (this view from Rob Norman at GroupM is also worth a read – it is about the ‘ugly sisters of digital media’: viewability and fraud).

But it did get me thinking (I was already thinking, obviously, but it got me doing extra thinking on top of that). It got me thinking about the standard measures of consumption across all media. The definitions for someone consuming each media are simple:


- TV: present in the room with the set switched on and the meter pressed for at least 31 seconds of the clock minute.

- Press: read or looked at a copy of the publication for two or more minutes during the publication period.

- Radio: listened for at least five minutes during a fifteen minute period.

- Cinema: been present in the auditorium.

- Outdoor: eyes on panel


However, when you then want to look specifically at advertising exposure you quickly unearth a complicated and vastly different set of approaches, definitions and methodology.

We would all agree that the approach should be different. Seeing an ad at the cinema as you tuck into your kids’ popcorn is not the same as a seeing one whilst flicking through the pages of your morning paper. Watching the break that sits in between your Sunday night TV drama is never going to be the same as seeing a promoted ad in between your mate’s holiday photos on your Facebook timeline. The measurements we have developed are designed to take care of specific media behaviour and give us timely trend data to assess our performance.

It is of course important to see a full consumer-centric view of media consumption and tools like the IPA’s TouchPoints give us the capability to model how these audiences use multiple media in their lives.  But I don’t think we should get too obsessed with how the ad consumption overlaps each other or not. Incremental ad reach is useless if the ad exposure is not having the desired or appropriate effect on the consumer.

But there is one unified metric we should all look at before we do any planning at all. It is the one metric that is comparable and doesn’t need to be changed for each type of ad media consumption. Of course I’m talking about sales and profit. This is the fruit of all our labours; the result of putting the right ad investment into the best performing ad exposures no matter how they are defined by us analytical types. Have a look and see for yourself.

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