Who Moved My Abacus?

By David Gould, President

What happened to the good ole days? Can somebody please tell me? It used to be so simple. Either an advertising campaign was a branding/awareness campaign or it was a direct response campaign. We could measure a DR campaign but not really a branding and awareness campaign.
Now it’s so darn confusing. Somebody came along and blurred the lines. All of a sudden, advertisers want to know what they’re getting for their money, even if it is an awareness campaign. Why do they have to be that way … why couldn’t they just be satisfied with the way it used be?

Well, I guess there’s no going back now, so we might as well look forward. How can we satisfy advertisers’ demand for a measured return going forward? Well maybe we should stop measuring against channels and start measuring and budgeting against audiences. After all, isn’t that what we’re really interested in?

Imagine a world where advertisers plan and allocate their budgets not against television, radio, print, out of home, display, search, etc … Imagine that they determine their target market segments and plan budgets against those. I guess that means we better be able to buy against those audiences. Well guess what. That world is just around the corner, and if you’re not careful, you’ll turn that corner and get steamrolled by it.

Already advertisers can buy against audience segments on a limited basis, but it won’t be long before this is prolific across all media. Behavioral, demographic, geographic, psychographic, and every other type of ‘graphic data you can think of will be mashed together and used to target consumers. When that day arrives, advertisers selling widgets will pick up the phone; call their media agency and say, “You’ve got $10mm to spend against women, 14 to 27 years old, who are athletic, like cats, cooking, long walks in the park, ice cream on Sundays, etc …. And, oh by the way, I need a $4 ROAS.”

When that day dawns, the advertiser will hold us responsible for getting the best return on that audience, not the best return from a particular channel. We’ll need to truly understand media mix models because we’ll be forced to manage the campaign across all media and from the top of the proverbial funnel to the bottom in a truly integrated fashion.

In other words, if you specialize in buying media or a specific medium, you may want to think about retooling your skill set because you’re about to be the guy left holding the abacus. The future is buying audiences and measuring against them as well.


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