For a long time, the media industry has clung tightly to their metric of effectiveness: the Gross Rating Point (GRP). It’s the number we put on how well our target audience was reached by the messages we’ve rained on them.
Nowadays it’s easy to calculate these in each of the media channels respectively, even with physical or static placements like billboards.
TV is done with meters inside your set, online is done with an http request inside a banner and out-of-home is done by counting the number of people who walk past a billboard.
Simple, right? Well perhaps not so much. My whinge today is around some of the unfairness that prevails in the business – where some channels are getting rewarded with higher impressions than they deserve, and others that are being sold severely short. Maybe if more advertisers knew about these variances, you would see a shift in the allocation of media spend to something more… correct.
For example, in online advertising you have the surging phenomenon of fake impressions generated by software robots that pretend to strike a web page, counting up the impressions that were never actually seen by a human. 30%, 40%, 50% and climbing impressions counted, billed for but not delivered. That’s a whole essay on its own, so look it up if you don’t believe me.
Actually I’d like to highlight the positive side to this story, and that relates specifically to the valuable impressions being delivered but never counted.
Earned media has started to get measured more, largely on social networks where a lot of organic sharing happens. But there are other forms of earned media too, and these are as a result of the rapid and unexpected merging of media channels in recent times.
Let’s take the humble, underestimated billboard or public digital screen in an area like Times Square. Impressions in places like these are measured based on the amount of people who are physically there each day. A simple algorithm then slashes a percentage off the top to account for those looking at their shoes as they walk by.
However, one thing you will notice above anything else is that everyone has a camera here, and terabytes of jpegs are spawned into existence every day as a result. Thousands of these are shared publicly, and thousands more clearly showing the brand messages on the billboards.
Or how about in a sports stadium that is filled with all kinds of branded surfaces – from enormous digital jumbotrons, to markings on the field itself. Those impressions are counted based on the number of spectators physically at the game, yet an exponential number of people at home are seeing those same messages in the comfort of their own home on TV.
In this scenario, the billboard impressions are being counted and reported back to the brand advertiser, and the TV impressions from the commercial breaks are being reported independently to create a combined total that is greatly underestimated.
The GRPs earned from the physical media being displayed on TV should be credited to the originating channel (out of home) and should, in turn, command a much higher value.
A higher value should mean a shift in spend, so it is a good thing that these previously undervalued channels are finally figuring out how to measure their true effect; which is the only way a brand advertiser will ever entertain the premium they deserve.