While some advertising platforms may seem more cost-effective, are they actually delivering on the metrics that matter? The Benchmark Series research shows you how to make the most of your media spend to drive business growth. Because after all, isn’t growth the metric that matters the most?
Marketing budgets are tight and there has never been a more important time to ensure every dollar is working hard towards achieving your objective. With the vast range of advertising options available, that’s easier said than done.
- How can you best ascertain where to allocate spend?
- What questions should you ask?
- What are the attributes of media platforms that help or hinder your advertising campaign?
Over the past three years, leading academic Dr Karen Nelson-Field, a Professor of Media Innovation at The University of Adelaide, conducted The Benchmark Series, an independent, large-scale in-home study the explores how Australians really engage with advertising across different platforms and devices.
Utilising bespoke technology that employs artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, more than 5,000 Australians were observed viewing in excess of 25,000 advertisements for 60,000 different brands. Using eye tracking software on people’s own devices – be that a TV, PC or mobile phone – the study was able to determine which ads people were looking at. After they saw the ads, survey participants were funnelled through a discrete choice modelling exercise that replicated the experience of being in a store. The research used the well-established metric of short-term advertising strength or STAS.
Five tranches of the Benchmark research have now been conducted and before you sit down to nut out your media spend for FY20, you need to ask the following questions of your target audience, and of yourself.
Are they paying attention?
It sounds kind of obvious but the Benchmark research found that attention is critical to sales impact. If you want people to buy your products, they really do need to be paying attention to your ads. And that attention is closely related to product choice.
When it comes to video advertising, attention varies greatly across different platforms. While 58% of people in the study were actively viewing TV, only 31% were doing the same for YouTube. That figure was even lower for Facebook at 4%.
And while passive viewing does have an impact as it contributes to the subconscious processing of advertising, it doesn’t come close to the outcomes of active viewing.
The Benchmark Series research found that active viewing on TV generated a STAS of 144 while for Facebook, that figure is 118 and YouTube is even lower at 116.
A major contributing factor for attention is the coverage of the screen. Benchmark found that ads which are fully rendered – taking up 100% of a screen’s pixels – generate twice the sales impact of ads that only fill half the screen.
This finding from the research has been influential in prompting the Media Rating Council to review its viewability standard which had previously been set at 50%. In March, the organisation proposed increasing the standard to 100%.
Another factor to consider when seeking people’s attention is emotion. In her work, Professor Nelson-Field discovered that ads which generate a strong reaction – irrespective of whether the reaction is positive or negative – garner 16% more attention than ads that elicit weak reactions. And ads which generate a high emotional response have 2.4 times the sales impact than ads which elicit a low response. That said, a low emotion ad will gain more attention when distributed on a more visible platform than a highly emotional ad that can barely be seen. Ultimately, the ad being seen is the most important factor.
All of this adds up to one thing and that is if you want people to pay attention to video advertising, there’s only one medium that fits the bill and that is TV. On any device – PC, mobile or TV screen – TV renders 100% of pixels 100% of the time driving more attention and therefore more sales.
We need only look to the STAS for each device to confirm this. TV on TV generates a STAS of 144 while TV on PC scores 153 and the TV on mobile STAS is 161. By comparison, Facebook on PC has a STAS of just 118 while the Facebook on mobile STAS is 121. For YouTube, we’re looking at STAS scores of 116 on PC and 137 on mobile. There’s really no competition.
Will consumers remember your brand?
Retaining a brand in a person’s memory for retrieval at the point of purchase is crucial to impacting long term growth. As Professor Nelson-Field notes: “The closer the ad is to the purchase occasion, the better off you are. But you never know when someone is in the purchase occasion.”
Good media enables brands to be remembered longer with minimal decay, or drop off, in the impact of advertising following exposure.
Decay is a major factor for all brands with the Benchmark research finding that the first impression has the greatest effect on any platform but that’s where the similarities end. Ads viewed on both Facebook and YouTube decay at a faster rate than ads seen on television. In fact, Facebook ads decay 2.5 times faster while YouTube decays three times faster.
Consider this, 28 days after someone has seen an ad on TV, their memory of the brand will have declined to a sales impact that is the same as when the consumer first saw the ad on YouTube or Facebook. To put it simply, TV lasts nine times longer than the average of Facebook and YouTube.
One approach that many planners use to overcome this rapid decay is to increase frequency. But sadly, this won’t have the desired result. Professor Nelson-Field explains: “The advertising response function is convex which means the first impression has the greatest effect and any subsequent impressions after that render less impact so there’s actually diminishing returns. Hitting the same people with more impressions is actually a waste of money.”
Adding insult to injury, increased frequency will increase clutter on the platform which further reduces the impact of your advertising.
For mobile devices, decay is of even greater concern with Professor Nelson-Field noting: “Competitors optimising for mobile are doing themselves a disservice because the actual device decays more quickly.”
While it takes 109 days to reach the point where a consumer is no longer impacted by an ad they saw on TV, for Facebook on mobile it will only take six days. For YouTube on mobile, the ad will have lost any influence after eight days.
The takeaway here is that no amount of frequency can boost ineffective media channels. For the best-retained memory which will lead to sustained sales impact, TV is the way to go.
Does a focus on efficiency impede advertising effectiveness?
The Benchmark research highlights stark performance differences between the platforms which begs the question, is this accounted for by cost? As in, are Facebook and YouTube comparatively cheaper than TV to make up for the impact they can have on sales?
To quantify this, Professor Nelson-Field took the STAS and divided it by the CPM for a cost comparison. The finding was that to compensate for its inferior effectiveness, Facebook should be one-third of the TV CPM while YouTube should be two-thirds the price.
Based on the STAS for each platform, Professor Nelson-Field noted: “Even if it’s the same price, at the first impression, you’re getting 50% less sales.”
The data reflects that TV attracts almost 1.5 times the sales per dollar than Facebook and around two times more sales per dollar than YouTube.
Furthermore, over time the sales impact continues to decrease with Professor Nelson-Field commenting: “People need to stop chasing their tails around CPM and the immediate impact and think about the compounded impact across time.”
Rounding out your media plan
The evidence shows that not all platforms are created equal. TV clearly has the jump on online video but still, you may be tempted to allocate a portion of your video spend to social video.
Before you do, consider this: the best place to put the digital part of your video budget is actually Broadcaster Video on Demand (BVOD). BVOD refers to broadcast quality content delivered via set top boxes, PCs and apps on mobile and tablet devices.
Professor Nelson-Field set out to determine the best second screen in addition to TV and found that the combination of TV and BVOD generates twice the sales impact of TV paired with social video.
The Benchmark research also found that combining a high-performance platform such as TV with a lower performing platform can drag down the STAS that could have been achieved with a single exposure on the better performing option.
Professor Nelson-Field noted: “You can’t expect two views to generate twice as many sales because the first impact is the one that does the job and the second one is diminishing returns.”
For more about The Benchmark Series, click here.