Lots of fishermen tend to waste time fishing in unproductive waters just because of “the big one” that legend holds was caught and got away 25 years ago. If the legend is true, the time that has passed far exceeds the life expectancy of the fish, even if it wasn’t caught by another angler in the interim. Then, of course, the pond itself could have died, the victim of acid rain, eutrophication, or another type of pollution. The same logic applies to advertising buys. In simple terms, times have changed.
Just as a successful fisherman will spend time fishing in a productive habitat, any advertiser should focus ad buys on media outlets where prospective buyers spend their time. A Harris Interactive survey released in late 2009 found that 80% of U.S. adults are Internet users, and these users spend an average of 13 hours per week online. Of that time, the number of hours on social networking sites (the vast majority of which is on Facebook) now exceeds the amount of time either reading e-mail or conducting the (previously) conventional “search and surf” routine. Another recently released report, the American Time Use Survey issued by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that the average adult American spends over 19 hours per week watching television. Those numbers are actually in decline, primarily cannibalized by Internet usage (where, ironically, a significant volume of television programming is now being viewed online). With readership levels down, recent statistics have also shown that the average American who reads a daily newspaper spends only 15 minutes per day (but up to 90 minutes on Sundays). Similarly, and with circulations spiraling downward, the average reader spends a scant 45 minutes reading the average magazine. Keep in mind that your target demographics (strongly considering factors such as age) will strongly skew any of the numbers which may be applicable in your particular instance. For example, newspaper readership has been in steady decline across all population segments, but the amount of time spent by younger people reading newspapers is virtually nonexistent. At the same time, it is fair to say that cell phone usage and text messaging is skyrocketing, particularly among those same younger demographics that eschew newspapers.
Comprehensive and current statistics on how we spend our time are not easy to find. If the information was easily accessible, it would probably be outdated as soon as it was published. We can sometimes only work with bits and pieces and get a general feeling for overall trends. For a general feeling with a comical spin and graphic effects, I would suggest a visit to the “Life and Time Spent by the Average Joe Blow” post on the Canadian blog, “Life in the Fast Lane”. (Seriously, check out that blog, run by Fast Lane Transport, Ltd. in Edmonton, Alberta, a freight trucking company serving Canada’s four western provinces.) In general, if you are trying to reach a mass market but cannot afford (or afford to wait for) the Super Bowl, which of the following makes more sense: Online advertising (where 80% of adults are spending 13 hours per week) or direct mail (where we each probably spend an average of 3 minutes per day deciding what gets a second glance and what goes into the recycling bin unopened)? Advertising over the years has relied upon the type of inferential data which has only proven to be slightly better than this type of generalization. Have you ever noticed how many erectile dysfunction commercials have text that reads, “See our ad in Golf Magazine”? The presumption, no doubt correct and based upon expensive market research, is that the demographics of the two markets overlap. With the advent of social media, where users volunteer and share a wealth of demographic information, we now have access to the type of real data which allows target marketing to go beyond inference and finally live up to its real name.
Advertising generally falls into one of two major categories: Advertising which is intended to fulfill an existing demand, and advertising which is intended to create a demand. Brand advertising is a textbook example of the latter, accounting for 80% of the two-way split. Ideally, your message should be designed to either reach out to consumers who are willing to embrace a new or improved product or service (now most typically as the result of viral marketing and social networking), or effectively introduce yourself to consumers who are already sold on your product or service but are unfamiliar with your company or brand name. When using social networking as a viral marketing tool, it is important for an advertiser to remember that they not be controlling the conversation but simply joining the conversation. Although it may seem contrary to the old rules of the game, it is best to sit back and allow the satisfied users of your product or service to be your most effective spokespersons.
Once you find the right pond, you will be pleased to discover that it is loaded with fish, and those fish are on a feeding frenzy!
This post was written by Peter Pelland