April 13, 2010

The Mommy Theory Of Effective Reach

The Mommy Theory Of Effective Reach

One of Madison Institute-UK's most prominent achievements in 2005 was to identify the genesis behind the highly contentious rationale behind the # of exposures believed to be needed to achieve "advertising effectiveness". MMRI finally discovered it. Where has it been all these years? Right under our noses, of course.

Sometimes we overlook the simplest of explanations, thus complicating the process with gobble-de-gook that takes away from the soundness of the argument.

Had we known it was modeled after a media researcher's own childhood experience, media planners far and wide would have avoided so many sleepness nights, worrying how to explain their 3.0 media frequency to unconvinced clients. Who amongst us can't relate to this?

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Here now is the 3.0 ad effectiveness rationale finally explained. Picture it's 1964, you're 10-12 years old and you're glued to the TV:

Impression 1: Mom first calls your name from the kitchen and tells you to "stop watching TV and go clean up your room before dinner". You respond "Yes Mom" and then keep watching. The message has entered your subconsious.

Impression 2: A few minutes go by. A Mom sees you have not acted on her direction and turns up the volume of her voice slightly and includes an edge to her message. (____Your name here), I said turn off the TV and go inside to clean your room. You respond by increasing your voice and express yourself by saying: “Okay Mom” implying with it as if you’re getting up. However, you still sit there and continue to watch some program that is so mesmerizing you just can’t break away. You have re-prioritized her instruction in your behavioral decision funnel. It now has relevance to you, but are not ready to act on it.

Impression 3: Several more minutes go by. Mom learns you have still not acted on her specific direction. Now comes that all important third message which Mom directs to you. Often the third message may be delivered in a high pitched screech-sounding tone, accompanied with a behavioral modification incentive, such as "If you don’t turn off that TV right now and go clean your room, you will" ...

[choose one or more of the following "negative behavioral modication" options Mom may choose from, which comes closest to Mom's knowledge of drivers meaningful to you):

1. Watch no more TV for the rest of the (fill in # day or weeks here)

2. Get no dessert for (fill in # of dessert occasions here)

3. be grounded for (fill in# of days, weekends etc...)

4. Deal with ___ (other prominent authority figure here) when he/she gets gets home from ____(fill in blank here, based on how authority figure is spending his/her time at the current moment outside the house, engaged in work or leisure-based activities).
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Impression 4: If none of those work, Mom may take additional action and enter the TV room with a (broom, cooking spoon, ...object of some mass) using another tailored message to insure the desired action will be taken; to change your current TV viewing pattern.

That's it. Makes a lot of sense now doesn't it? See, we told you. So then, answer us this.

How did we go from the "Mommy Archetype Design" (MAD for short) of estimating message effectiveness, combined with Mr. Richard Metheringham’s brilliant method of estimating reach to the gross mis-use today of these two theories? The answer is easy, the reason is based on denial.

In all fairness, denial describes the environment planners and buyers were largely in through the 1960's to the late 1990's; that is, being denied from having any other means of measure media delivery.

Today though, with that no longer being the case, it is more about denial of accepting a new framework of thinking and acceptance, endorsement and utilization of better measurement tools.

Let's remember that Metheringham’s curves did not predict when effectiveness would occur, his work simply graphed awareness curves. This was a giant advancement in the industry, which then paved the way for theory-based probability application models to be applied to cross-media mix schedules.

One other minor point, unfortunately, the each model were only that, models. We all see models walking down the runway, but only the most naive will assume they will actually look that way if they buy that item. Most people believe they will somewhat like them, assuming of course that the item "fits." It was simply an estimate, much like how local news weather “anchors” used to estimate weather before the Doppler satellite. They looked out the window, stuck your finger into your mouth or other ares of the body and then held it up to see if they could tell which way the wind was blowing.

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For example, if "primetime" planned as part of the buy, the buyer rarely buys the entire daypart in the same way the reach curves were developed. They could buy all NBC or all 10PM -11PM or the most efficiency-based spots. Metheringham Prime R/F curves have no real application to these specific tactics. Metheringham is based on "normal," more disperse media buying model. Plus, they are also based on a Nielsen sample, which we will set aide as a topic right now.

Or let’s say, you are buying advertising in magazines and your client got a sweel , or a not so swell page placement in the pub. Metheringham’s "reader per copy" estimating curves--largely derived from Alfred Politz, the "Father of Magazine Research" ...we’ll get to him later--were developed when you had Life Magazine, Look Magazine, Saturday Evening Post and a handful more. Nowhere’s near the thousands of pubs people breeze through today.

Email skimming patterns have changed the world of media consumption, such that how people interact with all media is dramatically different versus 1964. When you consider the scrolls on the bottom of the TV cable network channels, which can make one dizzy if you try to read the news and watch the "program" ...interesting word in a 1984 sense of the word... may lead to see why so many people are bi-polar. Maybe the real audience Roger Ailes is programming for all have split personalities... which would explain a lot.

Like MRI, (a topic to be covered next week) the number of factors that could, would and will impact the schedule are so numerous that 40+ years later, denial is the only reason Reach and Frequency estimates are put into almost every plan conceived by many agencies.


Any media veteran worth their salt should begin giggling if not break out into side-bending laughter to properly communicate the value and validity Reach and Frequency estimates have when presenting them to clients on media plans large and small.

The Red-Headed Step-Child R&F: Redundancy/Frustration

Another slight problem with going from reach curves to what is or is not “effective” ignores the strength and weakness of the 80/20 rule which applies to all media. Madison Avenue and media companies all understand that in each medium, 80% of the media impressions are consumed by 20% of the audience. Metheringham curves account for this, but effectiveness estimates don’t. While the 3+ reach is always highlighted, no plans we are aware of also detail the negative impact 10+ frequency creates from the campaign.


Agencies and media vehicles such TV, radio, magazines, newspapers and refrigerator magnets always accentuate the positive. We've never seen media plans which have the Redundancy/Frustration estimates, which measure the 20% or so of the audience reached were driven almost mad with the message overkill.

Who amongst us doesn’t get annoyed when we are confronted with redundancy. We either block it out, or begin to dislike the brand. Think about it, high frequency schedules could actually hurt a brand, the truth be known, yet no one measures or mentions it. Have you ever seen this type of analysis included in a media plan? We haven't.

Highly unlikely. Why? Because among other things, it does not sell the plan and makes the marketer nervous that they are spending bad money after good. This falls under the category of denial or downright mendacity.

So, reach and frequency, the old method of measuring R&F must die. Once it is finally dead, we look forward to the emergence of the new age of R & F, which will help marketers, consumers and media vehicles become much less wasteful, with a higher threshold of quality and efficiency into the 22nd and 23rd centuries.

The Case For Recognition and Fermentation.

It's time to redefine the parameters. This is not an academic matter. It’s not a simple matter of word changes. It’s a paradym shift. Here’s why:

First, Recognition:

1. Reach is a 3rd party assessment. The origination of the term here is based on an outside party determining if A reached B.

2. Relevance is a much better definition of the potence of a media schedule since the content where the message is running is related to the consumer’s mindset. Interestingly, check out dictionary.com on the word "relevance" (it's linked above). It's the first word we have ever seen in the dictionary that was defined through the use of interactive technology, specifically search.

Yet, similar to reach, using the search engine analogy, all 55,000 search matches that may be provided when typing in a certain word may all have been relevant though they were largely ignored, or to say it another way, were not recognized.

3. Therefore the best and only measurement and understanding of how we should perceive media delivery is not from the media delivery mechanism, but from the consumer's mindset mechanism, recognition and fermentation.

Recognition. Recognition is a 1st person descriptor. Regardless if a person liked the message or not, if they recognized it, then the first threshold of communication was accomplished.

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Decide for yourself among the three definitions detailed below:

Dictionary Definition Of Recognition
1. The act of recognizing or condition of being recognized.
2. An awareness that something [is] perceived [or] has been perceived before.

Dictionary Definition Of Relevance
1. Pertinence to the matter at hand.
2. The capability of a search engine or function to retrieve data appropriate to a user's needs.

Dictionary Definition Of Reach
1. To thrust out or extend something
2. The act or an instance of stretching or thrusting out.
3. The extent or distance something can reach.

Source for all the above : www.dictionary.com The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Before we get to fermentation, one last rationale to the case for recognition. Advertising is not aimed at trees, cats or ice cream. It is aimed at people. We all have too often de-personalized our desired audience by redefining them with various terms such as the target, the universe, the segment, or worst, eye-balls, which we believe is the least dignified term. Though by doing so, we are in denial and are presumptive that by simply exposing the message to the person, the person will let it in.

We're living in the 21st century. How often do we go into and important building without getting through security first? Everybody we know considers themselves important, at least if only to them. If people have a pass to get into a building, it's because they are already known. People let messages in that they relate to. The mental "home security" barriers we each have are set up to protect our attention span from veering off to the left, or to not let messages in that we don't want. Like very controverial programming (which includes most of what people call Primetime these days,) often parents do not let their kids view it. They don't want it to get inside their kids heads.

Second, Fermentation

Moving on from recognition, fermentation is the experience every marketer, agency and media company hopes to achieve with their efforts. That is, to create a change in the consumer’s mind in one or more of the following ways:
1. to create awareness from no awareness
2. to create interest where there was no interest
3. to change a negative view into a positive view
4. To create consideration as an alternative to current product/service
5. to change brand advocacy to brand love

Whether it’s grape juice fermenting into wine, or thousand Island dressing morphing (or being re-positioned) into “special sauce” … (two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun) some sort of change, either in reality or perceptuality must take place to get from A to B.

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Dictionary Definition Of Fermentation

1. A chemical change with effervescence
2. An enzymatically controlled transformation of an organic compound
3. A state of agitation or turbulent change or development; "the political ferment produced a new leadership";
4. Unrest; agitation.

Dictionary Definition Of Frequency

The property or condition of occurring at frequent intervals.

a. Mathematics & Physics.
- The number of times a specified periodic phenomenon occurs within a specified interval, as:
- The number of repetitions of a complete sequence of values of a periodic function per unit variation of an independent variable.
The number of complete cycles of a periodic process occurring per unit time.
- The number of repetitions per unit time of a complete waveform, as of an electric current.

b. Statistics.
The number of measurements in an interval of a frequency distribution.

Source: www.dictionary.com All rights reserved.

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An objective analysis of both will indicate that fermentation describes a change in form, ideation and/or context of something, which in this case is an ad exposure. On the other hand, all frequency measures is repetition of the same action, which in this case, is an ad exposure. It does not measure change results.

The frequency with which someone needs to see an ad is and always will be unknown. That said, today we have the mechanisms in place to measure if, when, and how many it took to measure the desired change (fermentation), which is the basic of objective of advertising. To effect change.

Since Reach/Frequency has taken on Redundancy/Frustration, given the 80/20 media delivery rule, reach and frequency should more often than not, be something to shy away from.

Just ask your Mommy!*

* "Mommy" theory title reflects US Census data in 1964 which indicates the primary managers of the household during the day and late afternoons were female. Title also used to generate interest and/or fermentation of interest in reading the article :--) Our mothers also double opted in to allow us to use them as research subjects. Swear!

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