Effective Vs. Efficient In Advertising


(By Bob McCurdy) It has been a wild week of media news, led by Verizon, AT&T, Enterprise, GlaxoSmithKline, GM, Walmart, Pepsico, and J&J’s boycott of Google and YouTube due to their inability to safely “traffic” Web advertising. The environment in which some of their banner and video ads were served make commercials airing in radio’s more controversial programs akin to appearing in Ozzie & Harriet.

An interesting article appeared in between these “boycott” headlines written by Rance Crain, Ad Age’s editor-in-chief, that touched upon a subject that is increasingly coming to the marketing forefront. You can read it in its entirety here.

What follows in italics are a few of the article’s highlights. It begins:

Do you think there’s any correlation between a less-than-robust economy and marketers’ increased reliance on digital commerce and advertising?

Takeaway:  A balanced approach between traditional and digital would produce better results for the advertiser and the economy. The Advertising Research Foundation benchmarked “balance” as being 22%-29% digital, depending on the target. Jack Myers, the well-respected founder of Mediavillage.com was one of the first to address this “balance” issue when he said, “There’s a growing body of evidence…that the target audience, reach and awareness of ad campaigns have declined over the past decade and that this decline has impacted the ROI value of advertising. Their analyses point to the best solution being a reinvestment in TV first, followed by out-of-home, radio and to a less extent, print.”

It doesn’t help that many digital advertisers seem to be conceding that their products will interest only consumers who are already sold on them. So brand building is taking a backseat, and marketers are pumping more and more of their money into digital ads, focusing intently on their most avid buyers by following their every move around the Internet. Casual or indifferent buyers are ignored. The point is marketers, to grow in a non-growth environment, need to become more aggressive in building their brands by reaching out to once-in-a-while churchgoers rather than preaching to the choir over and over again.

Takeaway: Each product/service has considerably more light users and potential buyers than heavy users, and research has shown that it’s these consumers who account for the majority of any advertiser’s “growth.” How much more of any product/service can heavy users purchase? The answer— not much. As written recently, “Big sales require big reach.” Reaching many is better than preaching to a few.

Procter & Gamble, for one, has come to the conclusion that it is missing out on building its brands by not stretching for a broader reach. P&G’s focus is now on “reach and continuity,” said Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard.

Takeaway: “Continuity” leads to continued brand presence and continued brand presence “accelerates” any campaign’s impact as each additional week of advertising generates a higher marginal response than the previous week. It’s about being on the “shelf” when the consumer is in need of a product.

P&G is also scaling back on targeted Facebook advertising because it wasn’t helping it reach enough new customers. Maybe Facebook should start a new service going beyond “likes” and catering to the much broader segment of “take it or leave its,” or even the more lackadaisical “so whats?”

Takeaway: Some targeting is necessary (reach all current category buyers at a minimum) but over-targeting results in fewer sales. Reckitt Benckiser, another FMCG manufacture like P&G, recently rediscovered the importance of reach after studying 200 Facebook campaigns, concluding that the top-performing campaigns had one thing in common – “large reach.”

Less targeted media channels are necessary to reach all potential customers, particularly the light ones. Tennis magazines are unquestionably the most “efficient” ad vehicle to reach tennis players, but they will only reach a small percentage of them. Reaching “most tennis players” requires the use of less targeted, less “efficient” media channels, and advertisers prefer the most “effective” rather than the most “efficient.”

It’s incumbent upon us to engage our clients in a productive dialogue regarding the importance of balanced media plans, radio, and our digital assets, which means we need to think, know, act, and speak like marketers, who also happen to sell.

Bob McCurdy is The Vice President of Sales for The Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Right on the mark Bob. The romance with all things social and digital is being tempered by the reality that radio has not lost its listening base but the inability of the those in the business to understand the need for media mix and expanded reach/opportunity. Yes, it’s always good to get a regular user to buy more of your product, but buyer attrition must be exceeded by acquisition because competition will always make it so. Consumer strategies must embrace new potential consumers because only selling the same thing to the same people every day is a path to oblivion.


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