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“There is no spoon”

Have you ever seen the film The Matrix? It’s scary for me to think it was released almost exactly 20 years ago this June! In what is a fantastic movie, the hero, Neo, comes to terms with an alternate reality where it’s possible to bend the laws of physics using your mind. While visiting the all-wise Oracle, who lives with a bunch of mind-over-matter kids, one of the children asks Neo to try and bend a spoon without touching it. Of course, Neo fails, while the kid does it without any effort. The child then tells Neo that the secret to bending the spoon is to realise that “THERE IS NO SPOON.” Whooooaahhh I hear you say, Keanu Reeves style.

In today’s modern marketing and media world a similar kind of thinking could and should be applied to the consumer. THERE IS NO ONLINE CONSUMER. THERE IS NO OFFLINE CONSUMER. Once that penny drops with marketeers, it’s possible to ‘bend’ the consumer to your will far more easily in terms of communicating and ultimately selling to them.

Yet so many practitioners, client and agency side, are still entrenched in their particular camps of familiarity and experience.

Today’s media landscape is far more fragmented than it was 10 or 20 years ago. And consumers tap into elements of all of it, all the time. On any given day, our consumer may be taking in:

• Social media updates on their phones a gazillion times a day

• Linear TV (watched live) when they’re uninspired and collapsed on the couch

• The box-set or series catch-up because they’ve been away on holiday

• Their favourite radio station whilst in the office

• Podcasts about their most-loved hobbies and interests

• Specialist magazines because they’re doing something to their home

• The door drop that was well-timed because they were re-doing their garden

• The web searches because they saw an insert about the new smart TV they wanted to buy

• The list goes on…

Often, they’ll be consuming several media channels at the same time. Mr, Mrs and Ms Consumer don’t draw ‘red lines’ (to use a topical phrase) between media channels, yet marketeers still do far too often. This is changing. But it must change faster.

What better set of advertisers to help illustrate the value of every media channel than the big US tech companies themselves.

Taking the famous ‘FAANG’ group of companies – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google – and also adding Microsoft, total media spend reported across Nielsen over the last three and a half years (Jan16-May19) is £991m.

Digital spend is quite inaccurate and incomplete via Nielsen, so excluding monitored digital spend via Nielsen of £381m still leaves a whoppingly large number. The data reports these businesses have spent £610m on media channels including TV, outdoor, press, radio, cinema and direct mail over a 3.5 year period.

graphThe more retail-led Amazon and Apple are, perhaps less surprisingly, the largest spenders in the group, with spend figures of £269m and £106m respectively. Yet Google, so engrained in our ‘digital’ lives they have become a verb, have spent £94m over the same period. And even the relatively thrifty Facebook have spent nearly £24m.

graphFrom a channel mix perspective, TV dominates, with over 64% of spend, but the group still spent a very significant £217m across cinema, direct mail, outdoor, press and radio.

All Response Media viewpoint

It’s true the example tech companies are now very big with very established brands. And they often have a lot of cash to help maintain and further build those brands using all means (channels) available.

But the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon in particular can reach a significantly huge number of consumers, very regularly, within their own ecosystems. Yet here they are, not just dipping their toes in, but spending many millions of pounds (or dollars!) every year in the wider media ocean.

True, some have had to battle negative news in the last 12-18 months. They have continued to turn to, even upped their presence, across multiple media channels to get their messages out there.

The key point is all these tech businesses are leveraging long-established, authoritative channels to complement domination in the newer digitally-labelled spaces. They have recognised the power of a multi-channel approach to achieve their communication aims. Ultimately, they appear to understand they must talk to the consumer, where the consumer can be found… and wants to be talked to.

Not every advertiser will have the luxury of a budget enabling them to use every single media channel. But all businesses, marketing departments and agencies need to be open-minded enough to evaluate every channel both individually and as part of a multi-faceted consumer media journey. Advertisers need to embrace the fact very few, if any, media channels work in blissful isolation these days.

Evaluation is not always easy and presents challenges. Yet, evaluation is critical and should be done via first party data and measured outcomes, as well as broader media planning research tools and information. Crucially, more hard, actual facts are vital for planning and media mix optimisation, with less opinion or personal viewpoints based on historic bias.

The Third Age of the Internet, if that’s the right term, is one where the technology itself is just another facilitator to fulfilling consumer needs and demands. It is the norm. It is part of the fabric of daily life. It sits alongside, within and around those more traditional media channels, in many cases merely enhancing the consumer experience and ability to access them.

Once marketeers realise there is No Spoon, there is No Offline or Online, the possibility of maximising media effectiveness and ultimately return on investment will be greatly improved.

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