Why the industry needs to move from ‘truthiness’ to truth  

Kim Portrate
By Kim Portrate | 31 May 2023
Kim Portrate.

Advertisers are entitled to transparency and truth from media partners. Kim Portrate asks why some make it hard to get it.

From trade media think pieces to broadsheet interviews media companies and industry groups – us included – strive to present their channels and organisations in the best possible light. On any given day, you’ll find at least one of us touting impressive reach numbers or remarkable ROI.

It’s why every time organisations (like ours) put out a piece of research, we get a ribbing from the press. No matter how robust the methodology is or how independently the research was conducted. Of course we would say we have the most effective advertising medium. And that’s okay. I have always been a tiny bit cynical, so scrutiny is 100 per cent fair in my opinion.

As Professor Jana Bowden said at the recent RE VISION conference, “Don’t trust everything you hear.” And she’s right. We need to approach everything we share with media buyers through a critical thinking lens; to help sort facts from fiction, truth from the, well, truthiness.

And if us seasoned cynics are struggling, imagine how the attendees at the recent Macquarie Australia Conference felt when they saw a presentation from oOh! Media touting outdoor’s ability to reach 95 per cent of metro Aussies.

In an opinion piece by QMS CEO John O'Neill celebrating the growth of spend in OOH driven by digital innovation in the sector, he said, “The numbers don’t lie.”

That’s the funny thing about numbers. They can’t do much of anything but the people using them can get up to all sorts of shenanigans in the way they present them.

When you see numbers without transparent sourcing, it’s enough to make you wonder how accurate, validated and correct the claims are. And before you ask, yes, we did reach out and ask to see the original report – but we shouldn’t have to. If your numbers are shared with the public, they should be correctly sourced.

In a difficult economic environment, the concept of transparency becomes all the more important.

Advertisers need certainty they are putting their money where there are eyeballs. And when organisations make unvalidated claims about reach, it puts our entire industry under the spotlight.

Of course, reach is just one part of the equation. You also want your media spend to generate the best attention, ROI and targeting. And you want it to be brand safe as well.  

So even if the quoted numbers are true, that out-of-home reaches 95 per cent of the metro Aussies every week – and we’re not sure it does – that still doesn’t make it the best investment for your advertising dollar.

How do we know?

Firstly, because there’s a difference between reach and high-velocity reach. While plenty of channels can reach large numbers of the Australian population, few can do it as quickly and simultaneously as TV.

In a week, TV reaches 75 per cent of the entire country, and it does it through a small number of linear and digital channels compared to OOH, which needs tens of thousands of sites across to deliver a similar audience. 

Supporting this is a meta-analysis of 179 Aussie campaigns conducted by Kantar earlier this year which found that while some channels perform well on their own, others need support to drive genuine brand impacts.

The analysis found most of out-of-home's impact – a whopping 60 per cent – comes from other channels in the media mix. On its own, OOH only generates 40 per cent brand impact. Compare that to Total TV which has a solus impact of 65 per cent. What this tells us is that investing in OOH instead of TV might mean you struggle to meet desired effects such as brand awareness, association and consideration.

thintv kantar supplied may 2023

The analysis also found that while OOH has a place in the media mix, on its own, it doesn’t have the power to move consumers through the purchase funnel. At the top of the funnel, Total TV has twice the solus impact of OOH.

At the bottom of the funnel, the gap is even wider. One of the reasons for this is the need for targeting, something OOH is yet to master. Meanwhile, TV has refined its targeting approach via Broadcaster Video on Demand (BVOD) which has Australia's largest first-party data assets to leverage for targeted buys. 

When it comes to ROI, data from the Media Engine, which aggregates campaign data across 10 categories and 60 brands, shows that TV, BVOD, and premium video have significantly higher ROI than other channels including OOH.  

With a contracting market contracting there’s always pressure to show how valuable you can be to a brand’s business but let's not talk without transparency. With that in mind, wouldn't it be nice if the whole industry was able to move past truthiness to truth? I certainly think so.

Kim Portrate is the CEO of ThinkTV.

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