Cause Marketers, It's Time to Press Our Advantages

Today I stray a little way from cause marketing to address the topic of media allocation, but there is a relevancy and application for cause marketers.

Recently Prosper International released an analysis of the media mix the Big 3 automakers use against data collected by Big Research of what media people say influences them in their purchases weighted by consumption and cost.

To put it more simply, they asked people who said they planned to buy/lease a GM, Chrysler or Ford product in the next six months what media would be most influential in their decision. Then they sliced and diced the data to balance which media people said most influenced them to come up with the media allocation that would gave the most bang for the buck.

According to Ad Age, in 2007 GM spent its media allocation this way:


Prosper’s recommended allocation is above. As you can see, using Prosper’s modeling GM’s TV buy would be gutted, cutting it by more than half. Radio would pick up a huge chunk as would outdoor and newspaper.

Wow! Talk about flying in the face of conventional wisdom.

Newspapers are going into the tank, losing advertising dollars every single quarter since 3Q 2006. Radio’s only a little better and outdoor has been the red-headed stepchild of the major media for 50 years.

And yet as I look at this suggested allocation I love it. The fact is, if you’ve got the money to spend in today’s climate, you can buy substantially more space in newspapers, radio and outdoor for the same dollar this year than last because all these media have plenty of inventory just lying around. Supply and demand hasn’t been rescinded yet.

But TV has long been strangely exempted to the veracities of the market. Network TV audiences in the States have declined every year for the last 20 years and yet the upfront, the amount the networks demand from big advertisers before the season begins, grew every year until 2008. It was like network TV was somehow immune to gravity.

That would be defensible, I suppose, if the networks were selling highly targeted audiences. After all, if your company sells $20,000 watches you’d pay darn near anything to be in a media where the audience is nothing but would-be $20,000 watch buyers. Instead, through it all, the networks never quit selling TV as the last great mass media. ‘Sure the audience is smaller than last year and 20 percent lower than 5 years ago. But where else you going to get an audience this big?” the rather circular argument went.

I can’t vouch for the quality of Big Research’s data or Prosper’s manipulation of it, but I find the thinking behind it very savvy, especially given the current economic climate.

Here’s the relevance for cause marketers. For too long cause marketing has been like the 22 year-old still stuck at the kiddies table on Thanksgiving. This despite the fact that when done right cause marketing gets better results than almost anything at the ‘adult table.’ But because cause marketing has for so long been considered promotional gimcrackery, we have settled for sloppy seconds.

Now that every marketing dollar is so closely scrutinized, we cause marketers have the chance to press our advantages.

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