Space all 4 U (25/07/13)

Space all 4 U

When measuring the audience we often don't talk about the number of ratings a TV ad got, or the number of readers of the 1/4 page ad on page 17. We measure the association; the viewers or listeners of the programs surrounding them or the circulation of the paper, says Primesight's Mungo Knott, as he explains why advertising is always the bride, and never the bridesmaid...

Bridesmaid and bride, fan and football club, friends and family, clothing and brands; we are defined by our associations and we seek associations which define ourselves.

Association is a powerful force and its ability to drive products and business is well understood. From the use of celebrities to endorse products, through commonplace programme sponsorship and on to the increasing placement of product on TV and in film, many businesses seek association as a part of their marketing strategy.

Indeed a recent report from KPMG suggests that product placement on TV could grow from a current £30 million to an impressive £120 million - or 3% equivalent of TV spot sales in the next five years.

This positive 'ying' can equally become a negative 'yang'. A sports star, whose public persona is suddenly changed by revelations of cheating, is dropped quickly by their sponsors who find the power of association no longer appropriate. The star may now be better known or even notorious, but the context of association has become unacceptable for the brand.

All mainstream commercial media are trading on the power of association. Audiences start with a desire to consume content and during the process are happy to receive advertising. That is, they are happy to receive advertising which they deem appropriate for the content they are consuming.

Recent research has even been undertaken to find ways of leveraging this association through a combination of 'priming' their audience by activating their thoughts and feelings before the advertising is viewed.

This is in order to increase the receptivity to a given category or brand and 'congruence' of feeling, thinking, doing and place, which can create a linked context between a programme and the commercial being advertised in the following ad breaks.

When measuring the audience we often don't talk about the number of ratings a TV ad got, or the number of readers of the 1/4 page ad on page 17. We measure the association; the viewers or listeners of the programs surrounding them or the circulation of the paper.

For online the metric of 'served impressions' is understood to be a poor reference point. Attempts are being made to create a standard for 'viewable impressions' with current discussions being around a definition of 'viewable' as being at least 50% of the ads pixels in view for at least one second.

In TV, print and radio advertising, the checks and balances of spot placement mean that a negative 'yang' association is unlikely. Ads will be placed in publications and stations or positions where the audience will accept the association between the media they are consuming and the ad content they are being served.

There is, however, a more treacherous path when placing ads online. The recent revelations of household brands finding themselves sharing a page with images of domestic abuse is not the first cause for concern. As early as 2007 attention was drawn to this issue by the BBC Panorama programme. The public, but also personal nature, of online viewing makes the power of ad association very real.

In stark contrast, one mainstream communication channel operates in a completely different way. Out of Home offers many reasons why it can build product sales and develop brands, however the power of association is not one of them.

No one buys an ad on a bus because they want to be associated with a bus, or on a poster because they want to be associated with the gable end of a house (with the exception of some tactical creative executions). This is a medium where, simply put, the Space is all 4 U, and consumers are not choosing, but they certainly are viewing.

Route, the industry's audience measurement system, is an extensive investment by the Out of Home industry to quantify and qualify not only who is passing, but who is actually seeing each advertisement. It is based both on the audience arriving at that location as well as their ability to see the whole of the advertisement - defined as 'both uprights in full view'.

So it is a refreshing purity what Out of Home can offer advertisers, acting as the frame for delivering a message which creates impressions that last and drives product sales and business.

It may not be a media channel of choice but people have always liked posters from early surveys in the 70s through to the latest research by the Outdoor Media Centre, where 76% of the key defining demographic of 18-24 year olds responded that they felt positive towards outdoor because it can be clever, humorous and entertaining.

In outdoor it is always worth remembering that it is the advertisement which is the bride and is never the bridesmaid.

Mungo Knott, Marketing & Insight Director at Primesight