Buying media is not easy. And, it is not made any easier by the lack of official measurement, or the knowledge that the little measurement that is in place has some pretty big holes. A media buy is as much about gut feel and applying your own experience than examining data.

Let me explain. Only a few months ago (yes, it took until 2010) the Outdoor Media Association launched its audience measurement technology called MOVE. It is based on transport data, knowing what kinds of people travel where, and why. It then applies that to outdoor media which appear on those routes. It sounds fantastic, but it is only available for participating members, and concentrated on metropolitan areas. So, currently, I have no possible way to tell you how many cars pass the billboard near our office in Albert St, other than analysing extreme average Main Roads figures. I can’t tell you how that traffic fluctuates from day to day, or month to month. And I can’t tell you who travels within the cars and if they notice or respond to
outdoor advertising.

TV advertising is monitored by people meters which, up until a few years ago were not used at all in regional Western Australia, and only last year did GWN decided to join in. Previous to that Perth and Eastern States data were used to draw parables. The data collected covers unrealistically broad age brackets and is rarely segregated beyond age or gender. TV audience measurement is eroded even further by the presence of PVR’s (Personal Video Recorders) said to be available in up to 27% of Australian households. Playback data is now being collected to try and capture this growing market, but is still a developing field.

Press advertising is yet another measurement nightmare. All a media buyer has to go on is circulation or readership figures, which are often out of date, or ‘publisher generated’. Official auditing is only carried out on those mediums which agree to it, and the data is only available to paying members or media buyers.

Online marketing is much easier to measure (through clicks), and behavioural targeting is increasing the ability to create relevance. Site page impressions can also attempt to indicate how many people may have seen the advertising but not clicked on it. But there are still holes – what about people who completely miss the advertising? Or those that hate it so much that it makes them exit the page?

And radio? Well measurement in regional Australia is virtually non-existent. Radio stations may know share of audience and share of age group. But I could not tell you the total size of an audience, how that audience shifts during the day, week, month or year and their demographic characteristics.

My point is, that sometimes an educated opinion is all we media people have to offer. We use the science as much as we can, but we also know media buying is an art. Sometimes the content of your advertising is the only factor which dictates a successful campaign from a complete flop, which is why it cannot be ignored. Just because it’s an advertisement in a paper or on television, it does not mean it will automatically create action or be successful. A advert which is devoid of both science and art will be a complete flop, there’s no doubt about that.