The shifting battle for eyeballs—and the search for
ever-more creative ways to monetize numbers—continues on all fronts: between
networks, broadcast and cable, and between TV and online. As part of the latter
struggle, Facebook commissioned a recent Nielsen study that attempts to compare
the social network's site reach to that of the Big Four broadcast networks. The
conclusion, based on the study's specific demo data, is that Facebook is
capable of delivering site reach at comparable levels—particularly during
the daytime with millennial demos—as well as solid incremental reach in
The study, titled "Running Digital Audiences, Walking
Advertising Dollars: The Untapped Reach Opportunity of Digital Media," concludes
that, "Digital publishers with large, robust sets of high-quality user data (like
Facebook) can in fact serve as an effective foundation for reach delivery." It
adds, "By investing in the online media channel, brand marketers can increase
their audience reach while at the same time creating an opportunity for dual
screen media exposure." It offers a way that this can be done within "the
original campaign budget."
It further points out that the proliferation of connected,
digital media devices and options has propelled consumer consumption of that
media; however, ad budgets have not followed at the same rate. And Nielsen
acknowledges that "a large barrier preventing higher growth of digital
advertising spend has been the lack of a consistent measurement framework
between TV and other digital media channels."
While that "spend" is discussed in percentages instead of
dollars, the study also suggests, at its core, that shifting ad dollars from TV
to online or Facebook will benefit reach without an attendant drop in
viewership. Using a specific example of females 18-34, and a baseline reach of
66% for both online and TV, it says a 5% shift in ad dollars from TV to online
will result in a 7% increase in reach, excluding Facebook, and a 10% increase
in reach, including Facebook. Those increases in reach can be achieved with no
additional ad spend, the example says. But it also adds that while the shifting
of those dollars causes an increase in online reach, TV reach stays basically
flat, so the advertiser is not losing TV audience when he moves those dollars
to online or Facebook at those percentages.
"This analysis shows in an applied example how a brand
advertising on TV can maintain the same overall budget, reallocate a portion of
spend into digital media, increase their reach among the intended audience and
create an opportunity to reinforce the messaging with cross-media reach across
channels," the study adds.
But there is a point of diminishing returns: As the
percentage of dollars moved from TV only into online increases above 5%, the TV
viewership starts to decline and the combined viewership starts to increase—at
least in this example with this demo group.
With the report being commissioned by Facebook, a case is
made for more marketers moving ad dollars into digital. The study points out
that while the number of computer Internet users has grown from 156 million in
2007 to 212 million in 2012 and smartphone penetration has increased from 7% to
59% during that time, the number of households that do not receive TV
programming via the traditional TV platform has more than doubled, growing from
2 million to 5 million.
Keeping the TV networks in the study anonymous, Nielsen does
comparisons between their reach and Facebook's. For weekday daytime, Facebook
has a larger percentage of users by a wide margin in viewers in the 18-49 demo,
which it breaks out into smaller demo groups. In the 18-24 demo, Facebook draws
50% of the population each weekday during the daytime, compared to between
19%-21% for each of the four TV networks in the comparison. The Facebook
percentage rises to 55% of the population in the 25-34 age group, with the
networks averaging between 25%-29%. In the 35-44 demo, Facebook draws 52% to
the networks' 28%-34%.
The gap is closed in the 45-54 age group, with Facebook
getting 47% of the daytime population, compared to between 33%-40% for the TV
networks. Among persons 55-64, Facebook gets 42% of the population, while the
four networks range from 36%-47%. In 65-plus, Facebook gets only 30% of the
population, while the networks range between 42%-58%.
In primetime, the networks are significantly more dominant
except in the 18-24 group. Among that group, Facebook gets 50% while the
networks get between 37%-43%. It is closer in the 25-34 age group, with Facebook
getting 51%, compared to the networks' range of 55%-62%. But the gap widens
more in the persons 35-44 demo, with Facebook getting 48% to the networks'
range of 63%-69%. Among persons 45-54, Facebook draws 44% to the networks' 70%-74%
and in 55-64, Facebook gets 36% to the networks' 72%-78%. In 65-plus, Facebook
gets only 22% compared to the networks' 72%-81%.
The question of whether Nielsen numbers get too selective in
reaching the conclusions -- or whether this reach skirmish between Facebook and
broadcasters isn't really apples vs. oranges -- concerns Pivotal Research Group
analyst Brian Wieser. "Highlighting Facebook's dominant reach vs. individual
networks during daytime wrongly implies that time-of-day is a first cut against
which budgets are set," he wrote in an analysis of the study. "Digital media is
separate from TV in this regard for many reasons: workflows are different, and
lean-forward vs. lean-back environments mean they are generally viewed as
different environments (not better or worse, just different); the means of
assessment (how a budget is justified and how impressions are measured at the
present time) are generally different, too."
Nielsen adds that, "While these findings on reach are
insightful in the aggregate, marketers are still faced with challenges, asking 'What
is the optimal media mix between TV and digital, and how do I measure the
impact of this mix on reach?'"
The currently unanswerable nagging question continues to be
a concern as to how much money advertisers want to move before it affects TV
viewership. While the study doesn't make specific recommendations, it concludes
that with the use of digital growing, and with Facebook having such a large
audience, it might be beneficial to consider moving some of those dollars.
"As audiences continue to increase their digital media
consumption," the study concludes, "large brand marketers that currently focus
primarily on advertising within the TV media channel should adopt consistent measurement
frameworks and begin allocating advertising dollars digitally to take advantage
of incremental reach opportunities -- or risk being beaten to the punch by
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