Value of advertising

Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker has just published another presentation, with reflections on the state of the Internet and technology world in 2012 and beyond. As usual, lots of data points, and some thoughts on how many industries have been “re-imagined” (a phrase I’m now stopping using as I’ve realised it means little more than “changed”).

Nonetheless, it makes for interesting reading, and the thing that particularly struck me was slide 19, which maps US figures for % of time spent by people consuming various media set against the % of money spent on advertising by those media. Whilst television consumption (43% of time spent consuming media vs 42% of the money spent on advertising) seems relatively well matched, print advertising seems, on the face of it, vastly over-priced (7% of time versus 25% of spend).

But of course this isn’t the whole story. There is a prestige that is still associated with print (or at least some forms of print) that means that it has a value to advertisers that is greater at the moment than, say, mobile (10% of time versus 1% of spend). This surely goes above and beyond the actual effectiveness of advertising if ads are seen as merely  an attempt to sell more product – but there’s the point. Advertising isn’t just about selling.

In the world of building brands, the challenge that digital, online and mobile advertising have is how they can challenge the prestige end of the traditional media channels: the Super Bowl slot or the page in The Times. There is wonderfully complete effectiveness measurement to be had in the online world where target to sales lead to transaction can be tracked with absolute precision, but that measurement is far less valuable (in my opinion) when you are trying to record something more ephemeral like an increase in brand perception. Traceability that can be so hard in the print and broadcast worlds isn’t such a disadvantage when your outcomes are less precise (but maybe as important) than sales volumes.

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