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What is the real cost of effective media?

Some important advertising research came out at the end of last year, but it may have slipped under the festive radar. Lumen, working with TVision and Ebiquity, looked to answer a question that's maybe not asked as much as it should be: what is the real cost of media from an effectiveness perspective?

To answer this, they looked beyond the conventional metric of cost per thousand people reached. Why? Because CPT misses the point that what really matters isn't how many (theoretically) see your advertising, but whether they are actually paying attention to it. Something which has become ever more of a concern in our increasingly digital world. A world where reach is cheap but attention is hard to command. And it is this second currency, the one which is a prerequisite of true effectiveness, that Lumen set out to measure.

What did they find? That the true cost of potential effectiveness runs strongly counter to current metrics. Let's look at 2 media at different ends of the CPT spectrum: linear TV and digital display. For the last decade we have been told that TV is an expensive dinosaur: a luxury only for those with deep pockets. But the Lumen research turns this CPT-orientated perspective on its head, demonstrating why ‘cheap’ media can be a damagingly false economy for brand performance.

The effective cost of media in terms of attentive seconds (Lumen)
The effective cost of media in terms of attentive seconds (Lumen)

Because measured in terms of effective attention, a 30" TV ad is actually much cheaper than a digital banner. Which may not be a surprise for some, but it's good to have £££ evidence to support this belief. In fact, the cost per ‘000 attentive seconds for the former is just £1.05 whereas for the latter, on a computer, it’s £21.88. Or to look at it the other way round, the effective cost of digital display is 20x that of TV.

Which isn't such a pretty picture if you're trying to justify investment.

There are some important caveats to make to this, obviously, as there is still a price of entry attached to TV which excludes many advertisers regardless of its effectiveness. And from an effectiveness perspective, the digital story is not all bad.

Relatively speaking, social advertising is much cheaper in terms of attention delivered. Although still twice as expensive as conventional TV. And video, wherever it appears, is the big winner when it comes to delivering cost effective attention - in fact a 20" non-skippable Youtube ad was shown to be marginally cheaper per attentive second than a 30" TV ad.

But either way, the takeout is the same: don't pay to be invisible to people, pay for them to be attentive to you. Which is about video generally and (still) TV specifically.

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