Recent Developments in the Post-Exposure Audience Marketplace

We’re in the midst of Advertising Week here in New York, which provides an interesting lens into how the audience marketplace is reacting to the ongoing changes in how consumers use media, and in how this usage can be measured.

As this blog has highlighted on a number of occasions, a focal point of late has been on various forms of social media analytics as  the primary mechanism for addressing the challenges confronting traditional approaches to audience measurement, and moving the audience marketplace beyond traditional demographic categorizations.  Advertisers, programmers, and industry associations are continuing to explore if and how these social media analytics could prove useful.

I recently had the opportunity to take part in meetings on this topic organized by the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Council on Research Excellence. One of the key themes that emerged from these meetings for me is that, despite the constant flow of social media analytics reporting in the trades, and despite the fact that many advertisers and programmers are subscribing to more or less every social media analytics service available, nobody’s quite sold yet that these data should play a prominent role in the functioning of the audience marketplace.

From this standpoint, it is important to recognize that there a number of other analytical approaches seeking to gain traction that have received attention of late that employ much more traditional research methodologies.

Take, for instance, “emotional attachment” as measured annually by the firm NewMediaMetrics, which contends that this metric is a valuable tool in effectively allocating advertising dollars.  This approach involves breaking audiences down into product purchasing categories (e.g., fast food, beauty products, etc.) and then assessing which television programs exhibit the strongest emotional attachment amongst the audiences in these various categories. The methodological approach is fairly old-fashioned, relying on traditional surveys of consumers.

CBS’s chief research officer, David Poltrack, has for years been one of the leading proponents of migrating the audience marketplace away from demographics-based currencies.  His work in this vein continues with a scheduled Advertising Week presentation tomorrow in which he will present an approach that melds traditional Nielsen ratings data with word-of-mouth metrics generated by the firm Keller Fay (we’re talking actual word of mouth here, as measured by interviews, not any kind of social media-based representation) and what’s been described as a “proprietary segmentation analysis.”  The goal is to be able to identify those programs that are most frequently consumed by a category of viewer described as “media trendsetters,” thereby moving beyond the fairly blunt instrument of age and gender categorizations.

What these initiatives tell us is that the audience marketplace isn’t quite ready yet to take the plunge into the social media analytics pool. More traditional research methods also are capable of tapping into aspects of audience behavior (emotional attachment, word of moth, etc.) that long have resided at the periphery of the audience marketplace, until various web scraping tools made them cheaper and easier to capture.

Only now, as the exposure model continues to strain under a media environment of unprecendented fragmentation, are stakeholders willing to pay attention to this growing array of approaches to measuring and valuing audiences.  The question seems to be emerging is whether new or more traditional methodological approaches to tapping at these previously neglected dimensions of audience behavior and audience value will gain the most traction.

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One Response to Recent Developments in the Post-Exposure Audience Marketplace

  1. Fascinating point that Poltrack’s push to move away from demo-based metrics may also reflect a growing awareness that demography isn’t everything. Maybe the realization is sinking in that it is no longer so important to maintain audience categories by age and sex, just because they’re countable, when new tools are exposing the varieties of behaviors within a demographic category. Thanks for the interesting insight that perhaps the social media metrics, whatever their long term value, are helping marketers rethink how they conceive of audiences.

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