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Media's Third Dimension

Brady Gilchrist
Media's Third Dimension Brady Gilchrist

With all this talk of engagement, what's missing is a simple way of understanding how the idea fits into overall communications planning. First, it's important to understand that as marketers we have a very basic job. We want to do one of three things:

  1. Encourage someone to buy something right now;

  2. Increase aided awareness; and

  3. Enhance unaided awareness.

In the current model of media planning, we buy access to people based mainly on the simple idea of reach and frequency. The more niche media types we have, the better our reach, and the more dollars we have the higher our frequency.

This is how it has always worked, but unfortunately, it's not really in step with the way that media is evolving. Imagine reach and frequency plotted on a graph, reach on the vertical and frequency on the horizontal. Now add another dimension heading backwards. We call this third axis "interaction." In a world where media is moving from mass to massive, holding someone's attention is of more value than bashing them with a message.

That new third dimension, interaction, is measured in time. If we are measuring the engagement of a 30-second spot, the graph lacks depth because the interaction can only last for a total of 30 seconds. We can increase frequency, but in the end, at any one time no one will spend more than 30 seconds with the brand we are trying to promote.

Now let's contrast that with what the internet is good at. Say we run a great viral campaign-- I'll use one that we did at Fuel Industries: , an online fighting game that allows fans to pit characters of one show against the others. When we chart that campaign, we see that on average our frequency was only around two, and our reach was for the first month a couple of million. It looks like a fairly insignificant graph from a media perspective, and not that exciting compared to how we buy television. Now take a look at the same graph in the third dimension. That interaction number is 12.5 minutes-- pretty amazing.

Do we care if we have a frequency greater than one if our interaction is 12.5 minutes? Of course we don't. We know that those 12 minutes have done more for recall than seeing a whole range of television commercials or traditional ads. Levels of processing theory tells us that the deeper the experience, the greater the recall. This does not negate the value of traditional media, but it does hint that the ultimate goal should not be just hammering a message across but finding innovative ways to deliver much deeper messages.

Our new mission as planners and communicators is to look at how we can enhance the interaction dimension of our planning. Our goal as marketers now becomes one of reach and interaction vs. reach and frequency, and that is what delivers us closer to engagement. As we move to a market place of niches and mass becomes less and less important, this thinking provides a new approach to solving your problems. What is truly significant is that media planning in the future needs to get much closer to the creative process to help define where those interactions should occur.

Ask yourself this simple question: "Do I want my consumers seeing the same messages 25 times over a number of months, or do I want them spending 12.5 solid minutes with my brand?" It's a difficult question and one that needs to be backed up with research, but our feeling is that those 12.5 minutes are worth far more-- especially if you are trying to build an integrated message.

The path to engagement is really about Reach x Frequency x Interaction. One more thing... the final piece of that puzzle from a profit perspective: Engagement + Call-to-Action = ROI. More on that later.

Brady Gilchrist is executive vice president of strategy and head of BlueScience, Fuel Industries' creative strategy and research division. Read full bio.


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