OPINION: Is retail slowing the recovery?

It is entirely feasible that the retail sector has contributed to the slow pace in the recovery of the toys and games sectors by insisting on their suppliers' marketing strategy.
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A contentious statement maybe, but almost certainly true. I have daily meetings with senior marketers that entirely agree with the philosophy of multi-channel marketing, who understand the value of and actively want to use their valuable budgets strategically, but are prevented from doing so by… retail. Bar none, all identify their overriding frustration as being that retail buyers only seem to understand one media currency – the all-powerful TVR.

I happen to know a couple of retail buyers on a personal level so I thought I’d devise a little test to see what they actually knew about planning television advertising, apart from their self-confessed addiction to it of course.

So I asked them to define a TVR. Not too difficult a question for a community that uses it as a primary indicator for advertising reach. Their responses astonished me as this is what they said: “I’m not an expert but my understanding is that one TVR is equivalent to the TV advertisement reaching one per cent of the target audience, and 100 TVRs is equivalent to the TV advertisement reaching 100 per cent of the target audience, right?”

Errr, well no actually.

So I explained (and please forgive me if you already know this, but it’s a point worth making) that you can run an ad that reaches 10 per cent of the target audience (10 TVRs) and another that reaches five per cent (five TVRs) providing 15 TVRs in total but it won’t necessarily mean that you’ve reached 15 per cent of your target market or, if you want to take the argument further - and you can in the youth market – anything like a 15 per cent total reach.

The key factor is how many viewers watch both programmes and as a result both ads, and if you’re targeting a specific demographic it’s entirely possible (especially for younger campaigns on kids’ specialist channels) you’re going to be looking at a pretty large audience crossover, providing a massive number of TVRs but effectively telling a much smaller proportion of your target audience the same message over, and over, and over, again.

Even the public start to realise that an advertisement begins to lose its effectiveness after they’ve seen it half a dozen times or so. So I checked with a couple of senior TV planners what that optimum frequency actually was – and the consensus is somewhere between 3.5 and five for a typical kids campaign. Another interesting point that came out was that in planning terms a reach of between 40 per cent and 50 per cent was around the optimum level, dependent on the target audience, timing, and of course product.

The consensus within the advertising industry, and I mean both clients and agencies alike, is that retail buyers have a negative influence on the potential success of their products by insisting on massive numbers of TVRs in order to agree to list them when their marketing budgets would be much better spent across multiple media channels.

In effect, retail is hindering its own recovery by effectively wasting a proportion of your marketing spend chasing a flawed media currency when that budget could be used much more effectively somewhere else.

You wouldn’t ask your accountant to check your blood pressure would you? And you certainly wouldn’t ask your receptionist to do a client pitch, so until someone can explain how retailer interference with marketing strategy actually improves a clients chances of selling product, I have a request to make to all retailers reading this – please, let experts be experts.

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