Report from the Media Frontier

Welcome to Report from the Media Frontier, my ongoing blog that provides guidance and insight on the "changing world of media" to advertising agencies, media buying agencies, the media selling community and brand marketers
Report from the iMedia Agency Summit

I recently had the privilege of attending the iMedia Agency Summit in Phoenix this past December. I hadn’t been there for a few years and was impressed how much it had grown from an intimate get together of the founding fathers of digital media buying and selling to a much larger cross-section of those-in-the-know to those-wanting-to-learn. In fact, about a third of attendees were first-timers to the event which is a good sign for an industry that needs fresh talent to grow and thrive.

The theme of the conference, “The Media Bermuda Triangle: The Mysteries of the Revolving Digital Media Landscape,” was very apropos for the challenges agencies and brand marketers face today. Some presentations that really shed light on media today and the future included: “Surviving in the New Media Universe,” “Social isn’t about Media, it’s about Activity,” and “The Publisher and the Age of Enlightenment.” However, the one that really stood out for me was “Dancing with Megaphones: The New Rules, Realities, and Hard Data behind Consumer Control,” presented by Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet Project.

IMedia has made the video of this keynote available and it can be found under my twitter feed, to the right. It is packed with facts and insights that are required viewing for those that want to understand the future of brand marketing. The essence of the presentation is how the media ecology and consumers themselves have changed. Consumers allocate their attention, approach to product research, and buying frame of mind differently today. They are also prepared to discuss their buying experiences on a vastly different scale. These changes are occurring because people inhabit a variety of media spaces depending on their circumstances and these spaces impact their expectations and encounters with brands.

Mr. Rainie sees the interactive world in three stages: First, the Internet revolution where broadband has enabled consumers to become content producers; Second, the cell phone revolution where the presence of anywhere, anyplace devices have created the “Golden Age of the Instant Expert;” Third, the social activity revolution where a person’s network becomes their information evaluator and an immediate forum for action.

It is this social activity which has changed the rules of marketing and altered the shape of the marketing funnel. Mr. Rainie provides plenty of examples and detail that you can hear for yourself, so I won’t restate here, but pay particular interest to his 2011 trend predictions and things to watch. I think they are spot on and should be considered in all future marketing initiatives. 

New, Free or Save - Which is the More Motivating Word?


 I generally focus on media and emerging technology in this blog, but I recently ran across some interesting research from GFK MRI in their December 2010 Cover-to-Cover newsletter that I wanted to share.


GFK MRI posed the question, “Which words found in print ads where the most motivating: New, Free, or Save?” To determine the answer, they used historical Starch date from 85,390 ads appearing in consumer magazines between October 2008 and June 2010 to determine what lift in readership, if any, ads with these words had. The result may be surprising:


  • Ads which included the word “New” had an average 8% lift in readership when compared to ads without “New”.
  • Ads that included the word “Free” or “Save” did not enjoy a lift in readership overall.



The article went on to caveat that ads for different product categories behaved better or worse than the average. Hair styling, nail makeup and financial services advertisements, for instance, seem to benefit the most from using the word “New.” These categories enjoyed an average 28%, 17% and 15% readership lift, respectively. Incidentally, the category least helped by the word “New” – prescription medications.


Of course these finding are slanted to just magazine readership and it very well could be different for online users, radio listeners, TV viewers and direct mail readers, but I would venture to guess the results might not be so different.


Consumers that show heightened interest in advertising generally have a greater engagement and connection with the ad. This may or may not subsequently play out in increased sales for the advertised product, but it often does.


Words such as “free” or “save” don’t build a connection with the brand, although they might motivate a one-time purchase of the product. A word like “new” creates a dialog and tells a story of the product – why is it new, is it better, what changed, will I like it as much as the older version? This conversation is what improves the recall and readership scores, and ultimately should improve sales in the long run.

Television is Still a Powerhouse Medium

Those who follow me know I am an enthusiastic advocate for new media and emerging technology. However, I do not lose sight of fact the traditional media, specifically television, is still a powerhouse medium to reach consumers.


Evidence for this can be found in a number of sources, the most recent being The Nielsen Company’s “State of the Media, TV Usage Trends: Q2 2010.” Nielsen found that in second quarter 2010, the average person watched more than 143 hours of television per month (about 1% more than the same period in 2009). That is about five hours a day on average.


This viewership does vary by age segment though. Those 2-34 years old comprise 36% of viewers, while those 35+ are the majority at 64%. More so, the highly-wired millennial generation of 12-24 year olds is just 14% of all viewers. Even though they are lightest viewers this group still averages around 108 hours per month or about 3.6 hours a day.


Another interesting finding from “TV Usage Trends” regards time-shifted viewing (predominately from DVR playback and video on demand). Marketers and agencies alike have for years now rung the death bell for TV because of the fear that everyone will have a DVR, no one will watch a show live and that all recorded viewing will naturally mean skipping of commercials. While this does happen in ever-growing frequency, and I am just as guilty of doing it on occasion as the next time pressed, instant gratification hungry viewer, the Nielsen numbers are a less alarming.


Compared to the 143 hours of all TV viewed in second quarter, only 9 hours and 23 minutes was from time-shifted TV (measured in all homes), although this number jumps to 24 hours and 27 minutes for DVR playback in DVR-only homes (about 38% of HH).


While time-shifted usage continues to grow (17.7% growth year-over-year) it’s still a relatively small percentage when measured against the entire TV viewing landscape. So for the foreseeable future, my advice is do not be afraid to incorporate television in the mix if it makes sense for your media plans. People are still watching.

Breaking the Code to Advertising Engagement

I generally don’t buy into hype over the latest shiny-new-thing that will “revolutionize” the way we will do media in the future. However, I recently had the opportunity to experiment with a mobile technology that very well may be for the next decade, what social media was for this one and the Internet was for the previous one. Literally a game-changer that builds on all the media trends happening today: consumer control, mobile access, engagement and interactivity with brands, ecommerce, and media convergence.


I’m referring to QR (quick response) 2D bar codes, those 1x1 inch squares whose design looks like someone randomly blackout the boxes of a tiny crossword puzzle. They are called 2D as in 2-dimensional in that they can be scanned up or down or from right to left, as opposed to 1-dimensional (think UPC bar codes) that can only be scanned and read right to left. These QR bar codes literally can be placed virtually anywhere – in ads, on packaging, sales tags, on signage, and even T-shirts. They are also currently used by magazines and newspapers to give readers access to deeper, multi-media content.


According to eMarketer (June 2010), 61 million Smartphones are used in the US. As more consumers adapt devises with cameras and instant web access, QR bar codes will have the potential to become as common as phone numbers and website URLs are as marketing connection points. I’m sure by next year, scanning apps will be preloaded as a standard utility on all Smartphones, but for now you can simply get them for free at most online apps stores. A real robust version I downloaded on the iPhone app store is ScanLife, which takes a minute to download and works with nearly all standard 1D, 2D and ScanLife’s own proprietary QR bar codes.


Once the QR codes are scanned by the app a world of connections opens up to users. They are doorways to instantaneously send on-the-go users to a website or WAP site, save a contact or calendar entry to a phone, make a voice call, send an SMS, Tweet or email and do a host of other engaging interaction. And unlike most advertising, this is completely consumer initiated so marketers are getting highly qualified and interested prospects engaging with the brand.


One recent example that received some strong buzz is’s campaign on Bravo’s “Closet Confessions” that used a unique 45-second ad with a QR code overlaid on the TV spot. Once the QR code is scanned from the TV screen, you are sent to Bluefly’s mobile site where you can see an extended video and sign up to receive a promo code that takes $30 off any $150 order. While this is widely done in Europe and Asia, QR coded TV spots in the U.S. is just beginning.


Here are some pointers as you embark on adding QR bar codes to future campaigns. First, make it mobile relevant. If it just as easy for someone to get to a brand’s site by typing in a URL will sitting in their living then there is little reason to take the effort to scan the code. Second, provide something of value – a discount, exclusive content, or entertainment. This is still a form of direct response, albeit on steroids, so the best practices of DR apply here as well. Third, deliver unique access to content which may only be available through a code. Take advantage of all the nuances and engagements that a Smartphone offers. Fourth, keep it simple, but engaging. More new ideas die because they are just too much work for consumer – make the juice worth the squeeze.


Please join the conversation on Twitter @mediaherman