You have arrived at the web home of Noah Brier. This is mostly an archive of over a decade of blogging and other writing. You can read more about me or get in touch. If you want more recent writing of mine, most of that is at my BrXnd marketing x AI newsletter and Why Is This Interesting?, a daily email for the intellectually omnivorous.

July 1, 2004

Move Over, Prime Time!

American Demographics

Consider a scenario: Spring 2012 rolls around. Cherry blossoms, mud puddles and, yes, like it or not, some semblance of an upfront television marketplace. In this scenario, television's numbers — still in the billions of dollars — are languishing, but other media are in the mix to pick up the slack. “Dayparts,” as they formerly existed, are, well, different. Internet advertising surges, largely thanks to increased spending to reach people online at work, especially young adults. Fueling this spending increase are not only online investment companies, software concerns and office products marketers, but traditional consumer goods marketers selling packaged goods products like cheese and cereal. In the footsteps of fast-food restaurants and beer companies, masters of tactical media planning who focus on specific times of the day for their marketing, nearly every type of consumer goods and services company buys into this at-work daypart. Marketing to the at-work online audience has exploded.

Why is 2012 a magic number? That year, the last of Generation Y hits the ripe young age of 18, and, factoring in current workforce and occupational trends, about 19 million 18- to 34-year-olds — a group roughly equivalent to the entire population of Australia — will be using computers at work to access the Internet, and advertisers cannot ignore them. This market of 19 million will bring media savvy, skepticism about advertising and an affinity for multitasking out of their bedrooms and dorm rooms and into the office with them.

At home, they will be harder than ever to reach during prime-time, not that they aren't hard to reach today. The 18- to 34-year-old group watches nearly an hour less of prime-time television than the household average, according to Nielsen Media Research. And, there are no signs that point to a reversal in this trend. Prime-time, the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. hours that millions of people have faithfully devoted their evenings to viewing sitcoms, adventures, news shows and reality programs for the past four decades, is a rapidly eroding economic concept as new lifestyles and attitudes seem to be colliding head on with old life stages and habits. As more Gen Ys enter the 18-to-34 age group, we expect even more of a drop in their prime-time consumption as they continue to instant message friends, surf the Internet and game away hours, night and day.

All scenarios aside, a serious case can be made today for the workplace and work time as one of the biggest emerging “dayparts” for marketers and their media planners to wrestle with, especially as demographics play out and the mass of the new generation passes across to young adulthood. This has major ramifications, not only for the currency of 30-second prime-time TV spots, but on business-to-business channels, place-based media and events occurring on-site where people work. Even as the flashpoint lies somewhere in the years ahead in terms of how Gen Y will impact “marketing to adult consumers,” distinctly different media consumption patterns among young adults have already begun to change the very province of media. At the same time, those different media consumption patterns raise the stakes in finding efficient channels and effective moments to convey marketing messages.

For instance, 18- to 34-year-old at-work Internet users see personal use at work as a right, not a privilege. Almost half of them use workplace Internet access for personal activities “all the time or often.” This contrasts with the 55 and over at-work users, who responded “all the time or often” at a rate of only 32 percent. This data comes from a survey fielded in late June by comScore Survey Research, a division of the Internet audience measurement firm comScore Networks Inc., exclusively for American Demographics. Thirty-four percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe that the Internet “allows employees to spend more time at the workplace because they do not have to leave to take care of as many personal needs.” Meanwhile, 32.5 percent believe that it “allows employees to more efficiently take care of time-consuming personal tasks.” Gen Y sees Internet use at work far differently than those who are older, i.e. not as “counter” to productivity, but as contributing to it. This age group doesn't view at-work and at-home Internet access as being a whole lot different from each other.

What's more, comScore Survey Research and American Demographics asked respondents to rank how acceptable 14 different personal Internet activities were at work, from “reading news online” to “keeping up with sports online” and all the way to “visiting pornography sites.” In all except two categories, 18- to 34-year-olds found personal online activities to be acceptable. Almost without fail, older respondents deemed personal activities to be less acceptable. Even an activity as common as “reading news online” found older Internet users less accepting than younger ones. It's worth noting that this portion of the comScore Survey Research-American Demographics survey measured attitudes toward personal Internet activities, not actual consumption.

Already, industries such as automotive (Daimler-Chrysler) and grocery stores (Safeway), have been part of the big growth in spending on Internet marketing between 2003 and 2004. “The market has stabilized itself enough that the traditional marketers are putting their toe back in the water,” says David Coffey, vice president of new media technologies at PHD Detroit. Last year, that toe represented $7.3 billion in ad revenues, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Internet Ad Revenue Report.

Online revenues reached $2.3 billion for the first quarter of 2004, nearly a 40 percent increase in spending compared with the first quarter of 2003. It is safe to assume that some of the money driving this Internet advertising boom is being redirected from television marketing budgets. According to an Association of National Advertisers survey released at the Television Advertising Forum, 45 percent of the companies the association polled anticipated reallocating money away from television. What's more, 69 percent expected the Internet to be the medium that “would gain dollars in such a reallocation.”

This kind of increase is especially telling when compared with some of the initial numbers from the 2004 television upfront markets, in which most of the major networks saw decreases in upfront sales. According to Theresa Lamontagne, a research director at OMD, “the ratings have been going down and cost has been going up. Advertisers are looking at this and saying, ‘there's always going to be a place for television, but where else can we invest our clients’ money?'” Fact is, running a major TV campaign without an important Internet tie-in is becoming less and less common.

Coffey explains that with a “traditional media format like broadcast, the consumer sits in front of the television and sound and motion is blasted at them. Whereas with the Internet, the programming is driven by the user experience; consumers have a better opportunity to respond at different levels to a marketer's message.” For online marketers, the objective is this responsiveness, and the Internet is designed to facilitate interaction with the consumer. Since many Web pages are aimed at specific topics, it is fairly easy to be contextually relevant with marketing messages, i.e., car ads on car sites, bank ads on financial sites and golf ads on golf sites. It also means using the data that has been gathered by individual sites and targeting specific messages to specific demographics.

“If they're watching Friends, they're really a mass blob of people,” says Tom Lynch, head of online marketing at ING, a Dutch financial services group that spent US$8.9 million on Internet marketing in 2003, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. “But online it's very different. They may be going to the Jennifer Aniston site and they may be registered for it and we know exactly who they are.” This allows companies to provide these consumers with information relevant to their lives and interests.

The real trick, however, and one that traditional marketers are getting better and better at, is employing the Internet more as a traditional mass media by utilizing the most popular sites: MSN, AOL and Yahoo, et al.

Ford kicked off a new F-150 marketing effort very aggressively last September, launching a huge cross-media campaign on NFL kickoff weekend. The launch included buys in every major media, with a very large Internet component. Ford used roadblock ads online to help point people toward its Web site (www.fordvehicles.com), for a presentation and virtual walk-around of the F-150. The ads drove 4.8 million people to the F-150 site that first weekend and provided 280 million total impressions. Online advertising did more than just provide those impressions; the ad recall for online was five times that of television. Online outperformed other advertising in nearly every category, especially in measures of purchase intention. Ford found that online provided 12 percent purchase intention, versus 3 percent for magazines and 2 percent for TV. Ford plans to go back to the cross-media well in the coming months for the launch of other vehicle marketing programs.

McDonald's exploits the work daypart strategically, and could serve as a model for others. Marketing Evolution, a California-based marketing effectiveness measurement firm, worked with the fast-food giant to find the right media balance to help raise awareness of a new Grilled Chicken Flatbread sandwich, particularly among those wondering where to go to lunch that day. With the help of Marketing Evolution's Cross Media Optimization Study (XMOS), McDonald's found that combining Internet in the media mix helped to raise awareness. Through surveys, researchers were actually able to track purchase intent on the Internet based on the time of day that people got the message. According to Rex Briggs, managing partner at Marketing Evolution, “If you advertised to people when they're hungry and most receptive to food advertisements, then their purchase intent was 10 points higher during that lunch time. The only medium that can deliver impressions during that time of day is the Internet.” While these findings are by no means shocking — marketing food to hungry people always has the best results — the quantification of results solidifies the case for marketing online to people at work.

“If you're trying to reach the primary grocery shopper who works for a living it may be the best time to talk to them about what they're going to make for dinner at 3 p.m., while they're still at work,” says Briggs. “[For] quick service restaurants, wouldn't it be better to try and reach them at 11 or noon as they're trying to figure out what they're going to do for lunch and advertise your lunch product?” An important, additional, third of the day is now available to marketers.

Today, 34 percent of weekday media usage for at-work Internet users is online, compared with 30 percent for television. This is compared to users not at work who had 44 percent television and 26 percent Internet, according to an OPA/MBIQ Media Consumption Study.

To understand the potential importance of the at-work market, however, look at Gen Y and its media consumption: 13- to 24-year-olds spend over three hours more with the Internet than they do any other medium. They spend an average of 16.7 hours per week online (not including e-mail) while they spend 13.6 hours per week on average watching television, according to Harris Interactive and Teenage Research Unlimited. The total of Gen Y, to an even greater extent than the current 18- to 34-year-old population, consumes less “traditional” media than previous generations.

For PHD's Coffey, this change in media consumption means that media buyers and marketers need to do more than reassess their media placement. He suggests that marketers ask themselves: “If these people are moving from television, a) What are they doing? and b) how do you best communicate with them through your message?” Eighteen- to 34-year-olds have been accustomed to controlling their media experience.

Flashing forward to the year 2012 again, Coffey's questions are still quite relevant. Generation Y is more in control of their media usage than ever before. PVRs have made serious headway in the marketplace and Internet video on demand is a reality. Those in the 18- to 34-year-old bracket are watching what they want, when they want, and traditional 30-second spots are all but dead. The best place to reach them is online at work, where they're still multitasking away and instant messaging their friends as they prepare spreadsheets and presentations. 2012 is closer than you think.


GETTING PERSONAL AT WORK Younger staff members are using the Internet at work for personal activities more frequently than older ones because they have a much greater tolerance for what content and activities are appropriate at work. This extra time on various sites while at the office leaves the door open for marketers to catch the attention of the valuable young audience.

PERSONAL ACTIVITY18-3435-4445-5455+
Reading news online4.053.803.413.38
Listening to the radio online3.533.192.792.42
Booking travel online3.132.862.902.63
E-mailing friends or family3.202.892.612.35
Managing your finances online3.212.752.542.14
Researching purchases you will make offline2.872.662.412.30
Planning personal activities online2.742.532.221.92
Shopping for products online2.632.452.241.97
Keeping up with sports online2.652.351.921.89
Instant messaging friends or family2.312.311.981.71
Downloading music1.841.671.391.38
Playing video games online1.651.681.341.28
Visiting online personals or dating sites1.541.381.281.19
Visiting pornography sites1.
  • Avg < 3.45 - 4.44: Acceptable
  • Avg < 2.45 - 3.44: Neither
  • Avg < 1.45 - 2.44: Unacceptable
  • Avg < 0-1.44 Completely Unacceptable

Source: comScore Survey Research/American Demographics 2004

Noah Brier | Thanks for reading. | Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.