Why Media Consumption Statistics Shouldn’t Drive Marketing Investments


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In May of this year, Mary Meeker, now an executive with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Cauflield & Byers, published the twentieth edition of her Internet trends report. Ms. Meeker’s annual dissertation has become one of the most highly-acclaimed and widely-distributed reports regarding the major trends in Internet growth and usage.

Ms. Meeker’s report is filled with interesting statistics, and I recommend that you take the time to read it. You can obtain a copy of the report here.

As she did in some earlier versions of her report, Ms. Meeker included a slide in the 2015 edition that compared the time people spend consuming various types of media with the amount of advertising spending devoted to those media channels. The 2015 slide is shown below.

Source:  Mary Meeker, Internet Trends 2015

As in past years, this slide has provoked a significant amount of commentary in advertising and marketing circles. For example:

  • “Meeker showed a nearly identical slide last year, comparing the amount of time people spend with various forms of media to the percentage of advertising spend dedicated to each type of media. Radio seems pretty well calibrated, while print is still grabbing a disproportionate percentage and mobile has room to grow by about $25 billion.” (Emphasis added) (“The Nine Top Slides From Mary Meeker’s State of the Internet,” Advertising Age, May 27, 2015)
  • “The mobile ad industry is still short $25 billion. Mobile commands 24 percent of time spent with media but accounts for only 8 percent of ad dollars spend.” (“These Are the Digital Trends Everyone in Tech and Advertising Needs to Know According to Mary Meeker’s Internet report,” Adweek, May 27, 2015)

The implicit assumption in these statements is that advertising and marketing spending should reflect media consumption patterns. If you accept this assumption, Ms. Meeker’s data does suggest that companies are over-investing in print advertising and under-investing in mobile.

But are high-level media consumption statistics a reliable guide for how companies should spend their advertising and marketing dollars? I contend that marketers should be cautious when using media consumption data for three reasons.

Lack of Specificity

Broad consumption patterns usually aren’t specific enough to provide effective guidance for an individual company. As a marketer, what you really need to know is how the prospective buyers in your target market consume media.

Narrow Focus

Most statistics on this issue focus only on what is called measured media, and therefore they only compare advertising spending to media consumption time. Numerous research studies have shown that spending on digital marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing has increased dramatically over the past few years. Today, the important issue for marketers is how to allocate overall marketing spending, of which pure advertising spending is only one component.

Time Spent Doesn’t Mean Effectiveness

The time people spend with a particular type of media isn’t necessarily indicative of how effective that channel will be for marketing purposes. For example, many younger B2B buyers are probably spending a considerable amount of time using mobile devices, but that isn’t necessarily their preferred way to access business-related information – at least not yet. The fallacy is to assume that personal communication preferences and marketing communication preferences are identical.

The report describing the findings of the 2012 Channel Preferences Survey by ExactTarget made this point clearly:  “The lesson here for marketers is that just because consumers embrace a channel for personal communications doesn’t mean that they want to receive direct marketing messages from your brand via that channel.”

Media consumption statistics are interesting, and they can be useful, but you need to know more to make sound marketing investments.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.


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