My advertising junk room; ill winds, TV and 16-34s

18 Feb 2019  |  Dominic Mills 
My advertising junk room; ill winds, TV and 16-34s

There are metaphorical rooms where we store information about brands - and Dominic Mills is taking a bulldozer to one of his. Plus: if TV ad exposure amongst younger viewers is declining, where else could advertisers go?

I received a piece of mail last week with a message in the plastic window. ‘Notification of potential refund of £3,219*’. There’s even a reference number — CRS/D2D/20 etc.

Hmm, I thought, that is astonishingly precise and organised. What could it be, and how did they arrive at that sum of money? And it was all the more intriguing because, since the letter was addressed to the householder, the sender obviously didn’t know — or couldn’t be arsed to find out — my name.

Once I stopped laughing at the sheer preposterousness of it, I opened the letter. #

PPI, wouldn’t you bloody well know. I’m used to bombardment by email, phone and text message about loans I didn’t even know I’d taken out. But mail? This represents a new tactic by claims farmers, but nonetheless interesting. Is this a last throw of the dice by this egregious industry whose time is running out? I know mail can be effective, but does it really work in this business?

My PPI mail experience coincides with some new Royal Mail research published earlier this month, this time with Neuro-Insight, which throws some interesting light on mail, some of which could be applied to this particular PPI shot.

You can read about the study here. It makes the argument — which I find convincing — that mail outperforms email and social media (by 49% and 35% respectively) in triggering long-term memory encoding. This, in turn, boosts engagement and the likelihood of subsequent action. Mail's strength, in an increasingly virtual world, is its tangibility and physicality.

To help us understand the role of the subconscious, which is what this study is essentially about, Neuro-Insight introduces us to an interesting concept which explains in layman’s terms how we store and process information.

This is the ‘Brand Room’ (page 7 in the report), a metaphorical place where we store information about people, places and brands. For brands that are new to us, the room starts off bare. More information is akin to adding furniture and decoration to the room.

But even well-furnished rooms sit in darkness most of the time, and it is only when we receive a stimulus — a piece of brand communication or a sight of a logo — that the lighting is switched on.

Clearly, I have a PPI brand room. This piece of mail flicked the switch. But what’s in my PPI brand room and how is it furnished? Hmmm.

Well, I think it is a dimly-lit room. There is one feeble, flickering bulb. The floor is strewn with detritus of long-forgotten and ignored emails and spam phone calls. I’d like to think there is a toilet in the corner, but it is blocked so I can’t flush these brand associations away.

And there are cockroaches on the floor. I’ve tried insecticide, I’ve tried to starve them to death. But the bastards just won’t die, and now they’re sending me mail.

There is only one solution to my PPI brand room. I’m going to have to blow it up.

An ill wind

There’s a saying that ‘it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’. It came to mind last week writing about Ebiquity’s ‘TV at the Tipping Point?’ report, which highlighted the drop-off in TV advertising impacts delivered to the 16-34 cohort.

This is clearly an ill wind blowing hard in the direction of live, linear TV. But what struck me, on reflection, was this question: what media does this ill wind benefit?

Ebiquity’s report, summarised here on Mediatel, offered advertisers a list of remedies — among them focusing campaigns on reach, not ratings, running more lighter-weight campaigns, and spending money on BVoD.

These are all TV-linked sticking plasters. But, as for the idea that TV budgets could be shifted elsewhere, no-one seems to have picked up on this...

So, as TV ad exposure amongst this age group shrinks, where else could advertisers go? I am surprised that other media owners, sensing blood in the water, have not been touting their wares.

The obvious answer is to spend more with the duopoly. And I dare say they, other things being equal, will benefit disproportionately from any budget movement.

Obviously it would be remiss of me not to point out that, certainly as far as Facebook is concerned, advertisers should practice caveat emptor. Our friends with the blue logo have some previous when it comes to audience counting, in particular a casual attitude to inflating — or failing to apply due diligence — to the numbers of the younger audiences it reaches.

Those with a reasonable memory will recall this example, not to mention others since.

Putting that to one side, what are the other choices? The obvious one is OOH, with its near-universal reach among all audience segments. Here’s Primesight, for example, claiming that it reaches 94.5% of 16-34s, compared to an average of 88.6% for OOH as a whole. You can’t argue with that, although the extent to which they pay attention, heads down over their mobiles, is up for debate.

Or what about radio? Despite a hiccup in the latest RAJARs showing reach among 15-24s up 1pp year-on-year to 68%, the trend is down. But not massively so: from Q4 in 2015 to Q4 in 2018 the drop is 5pp. So still a commanding figure.

But it doesn’t have to be legacy media. The likes of Twitter, Snap, Instagram and Pinterest all score highly among those younger age groups.

Incidentally, one of the publishers powering ahead on Snap is Hearst’s Cosmopolitan, where I understand it has over 1m visitors a day. I’m told, however, that the number of those visitors who have any idea that Cosmo is also a magazine — one, moreover, that may have played a formative role for their mothers and grandmothers — is minimal.

I started off being shocked by this, but after five minutes thought I’ve come to the conclusion that I am neither surprised nor shocked.

Disclosure: I have in the past done work for Royal Mail.

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