Tag Archives: IAB

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.

Read more on Advertising’s dirty laundry…

The good news: TV won’t ever ‘overtake’ the internet.

Cast your mind back. You may remember a year ago when our cheeky cousins at the IAB announced that internet advertising revenue had finally ‘overtaken’ TV advertising revenue in the first half of 2009. This prompted some ugly triumphalism from internet fundamentalists and telly was given a right old kicking in the press. A year on our bruises have healed, and we’re all friends again.

But guess what; various press stories appeared last week using the 2010 first half figures from the Advertising Association to state that apparently TV had ‘overtaken’ the internet again. In the first half of the year TV had 25.5% share of advertising spending, and ‘the internet’ had 24.3%. Whoopee, you might expect us to say; boo-sucks to the internet, reap what ye sow, don’t throw stones in glass houses, hoisted by your own petard and similar sanctimonious retributions.

Except we are saving our celebrations for something that actually counts. At the risk of repeating myself, on the anniversary of TV’s trashing  and while ‘online advertising’ spend is fresh in our minds, I would like to revisit why the ‘who is the bigger medium?’ question is the chocolate teapot of media debates.

It is not comparing like with like

TV is a medium, the internet is not; it is a fantastic technology that enables a variety of activities, from banking to shopping to email to TV to radio to newspapers and all things in between. It would be like naming everything that uses print technology – from posters, door drops and catalogues to directories, magazines, DM and newspapers, not to mention phenomena like books, leaflets, or letters – a single medium.

‘Online advertising’ doesn’t exist
There is no single thing called ‘online advertising’; it is a confusing catch-all term for the wide variety of very different types of advertising, including online search, display, social media and classified advertising. These are mature enough now to be looked at individually, as people do with the different forms of print, not lumped together. Aggregating revenues from such disparate disciplines in order to create a PR-able big number is meaningless.

TV *hearts* the internet
I never tire of saying this. TV advertising and most forms of internet advertising are genuinely not in competition. Search – by some margin the biggest medium within the internet sector – and email marketing do completely different things for advertisers and are wholly complementary to TV. Google calls it a ‘special relationship’ and this was underlined by our joint research with the IAB.  Online display formats of course can be substitutes for TV, but the fastest growing one is … online TV.

TV is available on the internet
The increasing convergence between TV (the content) and the internet (the technology) makes comparing the two fundamentally flawed. TV will be increasingly watched via the internet, broadband connected TV sets are launching, and the most attractive and effective part of online display to advertisers is the advertising spaces around on-demand TV.

If you still care about what the biggest advertising sector is, it’s print

If the same methodology of aggregating revenues from different types of advertising that use one particular technology was used generally, then ‘print’ would remain the biggest advertising sector. TV advertising and ‘online advertising’ never have been, and neither is now.  TV however is the biggest display medium by a wide and increasing margin. 

Online never ‘overtook’ TV anyway
Ironically, despite what the IAB announced a year ago, ‘online advertising’ never finally ‘overtook’ TV in 2009. If you want all the numbers here goes…

Ofcom’s figures, the most reliable source, list net TV revenue in 2009 at £3.136bn. Expressed as a number gross of 15% agency commission that comes to £3.689bn. The Advertising Association figures are generally listed gross of 15% agency commission for all media. They have 2009 TV spot revenue only at £3.525bn gross, plus listed separately is £160m of TV sponsorship.  Together that comes to £3.685bn gross, almost exactly Ofcom’s number.  The AA uses the IAB’s self-published figure for ‘online advertising’ of £3.541bn gross in 2009. 

There you have it: TV (excluding online TV) took £3.685bn in gross advertising revenue in 2009 and the whole online sector £3.541bn gross.

It gets confusing because the AA separates TV sponsorship from spot and lots of people get mixed up between net and gross (including some very large media agencies). So TV wasn’t overtaken it seems, so therefore can’t have regained some spurious position it never lost in the first place. 

But we genuinely don’t care
Who does?  We haven’t made a big deal out of this ourselves because, however tempting it might be, we are not in the business of comparing the two (Ok, apart from right now, but that’s only to show how fatuous it is). TV’s share of total and display advertising rose last year (as it also did in 2008), which might have justified a bit of showing off.  But when TV revenues were down nearly 10% it seemed a bit sick to get excited.  A year will probably come again when the online sector grows faster than TV but we’ll still be happy as long as it’s not at TV’s expense.

Real reasons to celebrate

2010 is a different issue.  Display advertising has come back strongly this year.  All media that are brand building are doing better, from cinema to outdoor. TV revenue seems to be growing by more than 12% and faster than any other medium this year.  All of 2009’s revenue decline will be regained .  Now those are facts we are happy to say ‘Whoopee’ to.

Read more on The good news: TV won’t ever ‘overtake’ the internet….

Online research: the crack cocaine of media evaluation

The low cost, fast turnaround and ease of doing online research has turned it into the crack cocaine of media evaluation; we know it’s bad for us but it is also addictive and gives us an instant high.

So a big thumbs up and round of applause should go to the IAB in the USA. They have just released an independent review of the methods used to measure online advertising’s effectiveness via the internet.

This was a very brave move indeed by the IAB, given that these ‘surveys’ consistently claim that online advertising spend is significantly more effective than spend on established media. The IAB across the Atlantic took aim at many of its members’ own feet.

I doubt there was the sound of champagne corks hitting the ceiling when the results came in. Conducted by one of the leading research specialists in the USA, the review concluded that much of online effectiveness research is seriously undermined by extremely low response rates, problems of survey design and a lack of evidence that it is weighting the data to account for inherent biases in the system.

Most of these surveys work on an ‘intercept’ approach, which means that respondents are invited to take part in a survey via web pages which are serving the online ads of the brands being evaluated. It is a bit like asking people sitting in Burger King and eating Whoppers if they prefer Burger King and Whoppers to McDonalds and Big Macs.

Talking of whoppers, I am regularly shocked by how many people in our industry take these studies’ findings seriously. I was at the MRG Conference in London when one such online study was presented. It demonstrated that expenditure on a series of banner ads had been around twice as effective as spend on TV. In a moment of frustration, I asked the media agency presenting the research the following question:

“If, twenty years ago, I had presented research selling the effectiveness of newspaper advertising by saying we had recruited a sample of readers of a newspaper, they had responded to an invitation to take part in a survey that was on the same page as the ad being evaluated, and they had completed the survey in their newspaper before sending it off by post, and the research then concluded that newspaper advertising was by far the most effective for that brand, would I have been taken seriously?”

I never got a satisfactory answer.

Research into advertising effectiveness needs to be scrupulously fair. It needs to be unbiased and comprehensive. We cannot restrict our questions to online panels, as they only represent the 70-odd per cent of the population that are regularly online and also skew towards heavier online users. We cannot recruit them via the pages on which the advertising to be evaluated sits, as that introduces yet another level of bias. And we shouldn’t even be asking them to complete the survey online, as the context of the questions will add another bias towards online.

In short, and in line with the results of the IAB’s investigation, there are far too many biases to make the research even remotely viable. It is flawed before it starts – and that is before we factor in additional failings such as the short-term nature of the research (some media channels, most notably television, carry on delivering value many months after the campaign ends), or the fact that a single exposure to the online creative is given as much of a weighting as multiple exposures to other media channels.

This is an issue that Ipsos has already raised in the UK.  Studies that have previously always demanded intellectual rigour and methodological discipline have been dumbed-down, seduced by the instant ‘hit’ of data showing the results that were wanted in the first place. In the area of advertising effectiveness, which should surely be the most rigorous and scientific of all advertising research activities, we have developed an approach that offers plenty of data but very little insight, and that is fundamentally wrong.

But it is crack cocaine, so it is hard to wean people off it. So, well done the State-side IAB for tackling this issue – as it puts much of the data of its supporters under the spotlight – and for offering rehab.  Media research relies on mutual trust between the commissioner of that research and its audience, and it is only by taking a leadership role, as the IAB has done in the States, that we can ensure the many positive advantages of online research are not misused and that we have a set of insights we can trust and use.

Read more on Online research: the crack cocaine of media evaluation…

180 degree turn at Media 360

A few years ago, a prevailing theme at Media 360 was that TV was dead – or at least in intensive care. It was depressing (because it was nonsense).

A couple of years ago, following the launch of our joint study with the IAB looking at TV + online, the tone had shifted a little and there was a bit more positivity about TV’s future; TV was out of intensive care and walking around the ward. It was heartening.

Then, last week, its rehabilitation took a couple more strides. TV was voted the medium with the brightest future at Media 360, Thinkbox (ahem) won Best B2B Marketing at the Marketing Society Awards, and Group M announced the latest set of positive numbers for TV ad revenue (albeit coming from a low base for comparison). The narrative for TV has moved on dramatically in the last few years and this is great news.

What was even better about Media 360 was the way people talked about the internet. There was wide recognition that it is not a single medium, but a technology for delivering many different things (media included). This is a mark of its maturity. Added to this was a trend of not obsessively looking at the impact of the internet solely in terms of how destructive it might be, but instead looking at it in terms of how it benefits different media – and nothing more so than TV.

The media debate this year was refreshingly future-focused and all the so-called ‘traditional’ media found things to say that indicate a much healthier future than naysayers and digital fundamentalists have suggested in the recent – but, hopefully, quickly forgotten – past.

All in all, Media 360 – with a few exceptions – had a healthy focus on promoting and understanding the future that stood in stark contrast to the recent past. I look forward to more of this next year.

Read more on 180 degree turn at Media 360…

That’s Numberwang!

Twitter announced last month that it had reached its ten billionth tweet.  That, dear readers, is Numberwang.  The news provoked the esteemed Claire Beale to comment that Twitter had therefore become a ‘mass medium’.  

Brand Republic recently ran the following story:  ‘A cinema ad for South African Tourism delivered an estimated 451,289 impacts last weekend, according to figures from cinema sales house Digital Cinema Media’; this was shortly followed by another story about cinema delivering ‘at least one million impacts over the weekend’ for a new ad from Puma. More classic cases of Numberwanging.

We’re no better at Thinkbox; we can Numberwang with the best.  We have taken to telling people that 2.5 billion TV ads are seen every day in the UK, at normal speed.  In our monthly reports we now have a page where we list the brands with the most ‘views’ in the month (fyi in February it was Morrisons with 695 million TV ‘views’).

All of those numbers are accurate – but what do they mean?  

Rather than bandy about 2.5 billion TV ads a day, it’s infinitely more helpful to tell people that the average person sees 43 each day. Rather than the baffling number of 695 million impacts, it would be more meaningful to say that 87% of the UK had seen the Morrisons’ ad an average of 14 times in February.   Or that 0.8% of the UK population saw the South African Tourism cinema ad once each that weekend (i.e. like buying one spot in a repeat of Rising Damp on ITV3).  

When Mitchell and Webb first created their brilliant Numberwang sketch, about a gameshow based on utterly meaningless and absurdly random numbers, it’s tempting to think they had the media industry in mind.  On the surface, it looks like there may be some method to the maths; but it is in fact just plain madness. Numberwanging is the (ab)use of statistics to impress and divert people, but ultimately to obfuscate rather than enlighten.

Read more on That’s Numberwang!…

Rio Ferdinand, media futurologist

In a surreal moment, the respected media analyst and futurologist Rio Ferdinand has linked the fact that the England-Ukraine match is going to be online pay-per-view to the recent claim that internet advertising has ‘overtaken’ TV advertising:

“I read that online advertising has taken over from TV”, he apparently said, “so that tells you something about where it’s going in terms of the digital world…So I’m sure it’ll be the way forward and in the future it’ll probably be the reality. I think it’s a good way to gauge how many people are interested.”

If ever the IAB’s claims needed a dose of credibility, surely this is it.

But Rio is not alone, unlike how he sometimes finds himself in the box. Among others, Marketing took a deep breath and declared ‘England game heralds future of sport on web’.

On the flipside is this from Janine Gibson, Guardian.co.uk editor, who disagrees it is a prophetic moment and explained why The Guardian declined the offer to screen the match:

“You had to sign up to an enormous amount of editorial endorsement and promotion for something that we weren’t convinced was of particular value to our users and would feel like a fake endorsement of a one-off match. This isn’t heralding the beginning of a new dawn; it’ll never happen again and it feels slightly opportunistic.”

She obviously needs to have a chat with Rio.

But over and above all this is the fact that the match being delivered by the internet might be interesting and contentious now, but once TV sets are fully broadband enabled it won’t really matter. Viewers won’t care how it is getting to their screens. It is all TV and they will hopefully have the experience they want.

It is unsurprising that England football fans are in uproar over the fact that the match is being screened via an online TV service and not on broadcast TV. They can still see it if they want to, but not the way they’d like to.

Amid all the fuss, we should remember that the game was originally contracted to appear on broadcast TV (with Setanta) and, if it had been an important game with something at stake, it probably still would be. I can’t see a match England actually need to win or a World Cup Final going online only pay-per-view – although maybe a new series of Rio’s World Cup Wind-Ups would be ok. It is a fairly unique set of circumstances that have lead us here.

The fan forums I’ve looked at are less concerned with the idea of paying to watch it, though, than they are with a delivery system that means they can’t watch it in the pub or on the big screen in the living room and have to crowd round their laptops or watch it individually instead.

They demand the shared experience that only TV can give them. But having failed to agree rights with a broadcast TV company, it is understandable (or maybe greedy) that the agency responsible for this match – Kentaro – looked for an alternative buyer. The end result might not be as good as broadcast TV but it is better than nothing. Still, that is scant consolation for fans.

The fact that newspapers are so keen to become broadcasters – with the Times and Sun being among those who will show the match – is really interesting but not new. They already have various bits of video content on their websites, but this football match is one of the few pieces of roughly ‘must-have’ TV content they can get access to. TV broadcasters show appointment to view programming all day every day and newspapers clearly would like a piece of the action.

I suppose the main concern for fans that do choose to pay to watch the match is how well the UK’s internet pipes will handle demand. The fact that the number of viewers has been capped at one million worryingly shows how unprepared the UK broadband infrastructure is for major transmission of big events. It needs upgrading, as Digital Britain pointed out, and TV companies are as anxious as anybody to get an additional digital network to digital broadcasting. How is it going to cope when the majority of people are watching TV in HD, or with the other resource-hungry innovations like 3D coming along?

Read more on Rio Ferdinand, media futurologist…

A graph that made me laugh

I’m supposed to be having a day off.  Fat chance. 
 
You might have noticed a story put out by our cousins at the IAB that claims online advertising has now overtaken TV to become the ‘biggest single advertising medium in the UK’ (by spend).  We find the IAB’s story odd because the internet is not a single anything; it is a fantastic technology that is home to many different marketing activities that do different things.  It even delivers TV.  It is a pretty meaningless statistic but it has garnered plenty of headlines and no small amount of apocalyptic predictions.  Journalists expect us to respond, so here I am blogging instead of planting my daffs.
 
As I have said many times before, I love the internet. I love the way that it complements TV – nothing else works better. I love the way people can respond instantly to TV ads via search and websites; I love the way social media helps make the buzz around TV programmes so visible and so much more fun.  I’m happy for online advertising to increase – so long as it is not at TV’s expense.  And so far it isn’t.  (I can almost hear your eyebrows rising at this point).
 
That’s the depressing part of this story; the implication that online advertising is taking broadcast TV’s money is just not true.  Last year broadcast TV spot advertising declined 2.9% compared to total advertising declines of 4.2% and display declines of 5%.  Not the spectacular share growth of online maybe but growth nonetheless and in the horrific ad market that is 2009 the same pattern is emerging; TV and online are increasing their shares, mostly at the expense of print and DM, though print remains the biggest overall advertising medium, not online.
 
If the IAB can’t resist making comparisons with TV then the fairest would be to compare all forms of online display with all forms of broadcast TV – spot, sponsorship, AFP, Interactive etc. – not an easy number to get hold of because TV has never bothered to lump its own advertising revenues together. TV would never try to compare itself with any form of classified advertising, DM or search because it wouldn’t make any sense.  
 
Anyway, Thinkbox’s thoughts on this are already out there so I won’t repeat them all here.
 
But I would like to draw your attention to The Guardian’s coverage of the story today. They produced a little graph that made me laugh (it isn’t online though). Along the x axis we had a list of advertising sectors, each with a bar representing revenue that got a bit taller as it went along. We had cinema, radio (spot only), business magazines, consumer magazines, directories, outdoor, national newspapers, press classified, direct mail, regional newspapers, press display, television (spot only), and then…internet. Just internet. No more explanation than that.
 
We think these numbers would be more meaningfully represented in one of two ways, either by technology/platform or by the genuine distinctive advertising sectors .  We’ve had a go, based just on the IAB’s figures.  Take your pick.

Read more on A graph that made me laugh…

Latest jobs Jobs web feed