7th of August 2017

By Professor Byron Sharp Director Ehrenberg-Bass Institute
By Professor Rachel Kennedy Associate Director (Product Development) Ehrenberg-Bass Institute
By Dr Virginia Beal Senior Marketing Scientist Ehrenberg-Bass Institute
By Dr Nicole Hartnett Senior Marketing Scientist Ehrenberg-Bass Institute
Published by unisabusiness magazine See original article

Opportunity To See

The media landscape has undergone unprecedented change in recent years. Alongside advertising options like television, radio and print, advertisers now face the dilemma of incorporating online, mobile and social media into their strategy.

Many advertisers have adopted options like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Snapchat but how much to spend on these platforms remains a difficult decision for marketers because there is little data to directly compare and evaluate them against long-established media options as like TV and radio. Add to this the large sums of money at stake and the pressure is on to deliver results that justify media choices—last year, advertisers spent over US$560 billion purchasing media space, of which about a third was spent online.

Anything that will improve the effectiveness of media placement decisions will make a big difference to a company’s performance. For marketers, the perpetual challenge is how to determine where best to spend their valuable media dollars? Knowing where ads have the best chance of being seen or heard by people who are watching, listening, scrolling, searching, or reading, is critical, but ascertaining this information across different media is more difficult than it sounds.

Media is purchased on an Opportunity-To-See (OTS) basis. This means marketers are buying the potential to reach consumers in the media in which their advertisement is placed. This leads to a few big questions. The first question is how many of the OTS purchased in a media type will catch the attention of the audience and be seen? Once it is established that the ad was seen, the second question is what impact did that exposure have on consumers? On top of this, the final challenge is how to accurately compare the effectiveness of a static visual display like a billboard ad with a 30-second video, or with an audio-only radio ad.

What a marketer buys on each media type is functionally very different; videos are obviously different to photos, and again very different to spoken scripts. But what makes this process more difficult, is the way that media sellers choose to define an OTS. This can be is very different across media types.

Presently, an OTS for a desktop display ad is counted as an OTS when half or more of the ad’s pixels are visible on screen for at least one second or more; for an online video, an OTS is counted when it is played for a minimum of 2 seconds, yet for a television ad, the OTS counts only after it plays for a full 30 seconds.

While millions of dollars are spent on media each day, little research exists to guide decisions in this space. That said, those who decide how to allocate these budgets across the many media types are a vital source of untapped knowledge in this complex field.

Assoc. Professor Rachel Kennedy says, “In a world-first initiative, we spoke to more than 100 media experts from different countries, documenting their knowledge and experience to gain a greater understanding of the art of media placement. Here we present the key findings from these interviews.”

How many OTS in any given media type will get attention and be seen?

Most advertisers believe that video media (particularly TV and cinema) have the potential to gain more actual exposures that are genuinely noticed by viewers than static image and/or text media types (such as magazines, static Facebook posts and so on). The reason for this relates to the level of audience engagement.

Media experts consistently referred to audience behavior—what people are doing when they’re in the media environment and how much attention they’re paying to the media. Someone who is listening to the radio when driving or cleaning up at home could be considered a more distracted listener than someone who is sitting in a dark cinema with a big screen. The opportunity to notice is perceived as being negatively related to the opportunity for distractions or concurrent tasks.

Media experts also believe that format itself is important, with video-based ads perceived as more likely to be seen than static ads. Also, consumers’ abilities to interact with the media type, including skipping or scrolling, was mentioned.

This was often in a negative context, as static Internet ads were perceived to have the lowest ability to convert an OTS to an exposure due to these audience behaviours.

Once an advertisement is seen, what is the impact of that exposure on consumers? 

Advertisers perceive actual exposures in primetime TV, and cinema ads, to be the most valuable media exposures. Once seen, these ads are most likely to deliver on their intended purpose, such as building know- ledge of the brand in peoples’ heads and nudging them towards making a purchase.

Non-skippable desktop pre-roll video ads are seen as having about two-thirds of the impact of TV/Cinema. Newspapers, outdoor and magazines, however, were valued by media experts as being about half the value of TV and cinema, while most static Internet ads (text and/or images), were valued at a third of the value or less of TV and cinema.

So, what does it all mean? 

Although there are still many unanswered questions in the media space, interviewing these media experts has provided much needed insights to give marketers some basic ‘rules of thumb’ to guide their decisions about media placement.

There is a great demand for better cross media measurement, but while this need remains unmet, marketers are encouraged to consider their media choices in line with the following guidelines—developed from these media insights—all the while evaluating their own data on individual media that relates to the specific opportunities in their relevant market.

The overall findings presented here are clear and compelling, but underneath this, media experts did have conflicting ideas about which media has the best attention-getting ability or the greatest impact. Naturally, people’s own experiences will lead to variances in knowledge—the experts work on different categories, have seen different campaigns working well in different media, and may access different data sources to support their ideas.

And while we don’t expect everyone to agree all the time, such variability speaks to the lack of evidence-based media planning. Being evidence-based is of great importance and is an area where there is scope for the media and advertising industry to do better.


Seen And Be Seen

Rules Of Thumb To Guide Media Placement

1. Reach: How much reach can I achieve

  • What level of reach does my media schedule achieve?
    Choose the largest reaching media that allows for a continuous presence over time (ie. as many weeks on-air in the planning period as possible).
  • Can I add different media types to increase the reach of the campaign?
    Consider including more than one media and/or varying the time of day ads are aired (eg. daytime versus primetime TV) to increase the level of reach.

2. OTS: Will the OTS in the media type convert into an exposure?

  • What constitutes an OTS in the media type? 
    Criteria for what constitutes an OTS are very different across media types— be sure to understand the definition of the OTS you are buying and carefully consider the impact this will have on the likelihood of the ad you have paid for being seen.
  • Is the ad the dominant stimuli or competing for attention in the particular media? What is the level of clutter? 
    It makes sense that when ads are larger and shown alone on screen they have a better chance at capturing attention. Assess the ad environment carefully.
  • What ad avoidance behaviours occur?
    People avoid ads across all different media; both actively, like changing the channel, or passively, like looking away or multi-tasking. Stay current with the latest research on ad avoidance and consider watching people consuming your media to give a better idea of the behaviour your ad may encounter.
  • Which device are they using—TV, laptop, mobile?
    There is some support for big screen effectiveness, but other support for the intimacy of consumption on mobile. Think about your message and which device will have the best impact for your goals.

3. Exposure: What effect will the exposure have?

  • What is the format? Audio-visual, or just audio or visual, static or dynamic?
    The type of stimuli will impact the level of mental processing. Studies show that our ability to retain visual information is much superior to audio information. People are typically visual, taking in about 90 percent of information via their eyes.


“TV remains by far the most-watched screen in Australia. Viewing of broadcast TV on in-home TV sets accounts for an average of 2 hours 39 mins each day. And the evidence shows it is still the most effective advertising medium.”

– Dr Virginia Beal, Senior Marketing Scientist, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute






“Digital advertising (desktop, laptop or mobile) now makes up close to 50% of advertisers’ media spend in Australia but almost half of that spend goes to search advertising.”

– Pippi Redden, Marketing Scientist, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute







“While tablet penetration has levelled off in Australia, at around 50%, people will default to the biggest screen available at the time.”

– Associate Professor Rachel Kennedy, Associate Director, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute








“It is good to know where your audience is when they tune in. In 2016, about half of Australian radio listening was at home and about a third was in the car.”

– Dr Nicole Hartnett, Senior Marketing Scientist, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute






“The exciting thing about mobile devices for advertisers is the potential to reach people closer, in time and place, to their actual purchase situations.”

– Professor Byron Sharp, Director, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute








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