Evaluating alternative Media

Alternative media present some interesting options for marketers. Ads now can appear virtually anywhere consumers have a few spare minutes or even seconds and thus enough time to notice them. The main advantage of nontraditional media is that a very precise and – because of the nature of the setting involved – captive audience often can be reached in a cost effective manner. The message must be simple and direct. In fact, outdoor advertising is often called the “15 second sell.” Strategically, out-of-home advertising is often more effective and enhancing brand awareness or reinforcing brand image than creating new brand associations.

The challenge with non-traditional media is demonstrating its reach and effectiveness through credible, independent research. These new marketing strategies and tactics must be ultimately judged on how they contribute, directly or indirectly, to brand equity. Unique ad placements designed to break through clutter may also be perceived as invasive and obtrusive. There has been some consumer backlash when people see ads in traditionally ad-free spaces, such as in schools, on police cruisers, and in doctors’ waiting rooms. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader says, What these people on Madison Avenue don’t understand is consumers will reach a saturation point.

But not all Americans are turned off the by the proliferation of advertising. One marketing consultant says, “Kids 18 and under aren’t thinking twice about it. Branded merchandise is just the landscape of their lives. Perhaps because of the sheer pervasiveness of advertising, consumer seem to be less bothered by non traditional media now than in the past.

Consumers must be favorably affected in some way to justify the marketing expenditures for nontraditional media. Some firms offer ad placement in supermarket checkout line, fast food restaurants, physicians’ waiting rooms, health clubs, and truck stops have suspended business at least in part because of a lack of consumer interest. The bottom line, however, is that there will always be room for creative means of placing the brand in front of consumers. The possibilities are endless.

The media planner must search for the most cost effective vehicles within each chosen media type. The advertiser who decides to buy 30 seconds of advertising on network television can pay around $100,000 for a new show, over $400,000 for a popular prime time show such as Will & Grace, ER, or Survivor, or over $2 million for an event like the Super Bowl. These choices are critical: The average cost to produce a national 30-second television commercial in 2001 was about $350,000. It can cost as much to run ad once on network TV as to make it to start with.

In making choices, the planner has to rely on measurement services that provide estimates of audience size, composition and media cost. Audience size has several possible measures:

* Circulation: The number of physical units carrying the advertising.

* Audience: The number of people exposed to the vehicle. (If the vehicle has pass-on readership then the audience is larger than circulation).

* Effectiveness audience: The number of people with target audience characteristics exposed to the vehicle.

* Effective ad-exposed audience: The number of people with target audience characteristics who actually saw the ad.