5 May 2023

Media Placement Matters More than You Think

It’s nearly 60 years since Marshall McLuhan presented his theory that ‘The Medium is the Message’, meaning simply that the way we send and receive information is more important than the information itself. Considered a visionary ahead of his time, the Canadian was a philosopher but could be best described as a communications theorist. This was 1964, before mobile phones, social media, the internet and the myriad communications devices that we use and consume daily, so the question is does the theory have relevance today? In this week’s newsletter, Head of Strategy, mFUSE Will Jellicoe, analyses the relevance of this theory and the impact of media placement.

Strong brands contribute to the commercial success of companies in a number of ways, but the most compelling reason to invest in a brand is to enable the selling of products more widely and at a premium. We believe in building brands through an audience-first approach, where the customer’s context tells us how to deliver the best brand and advertising experience.

When a category is relevant to all potential buyers - e.g. toothpaste - then it is easy to follow the principles made famous by  the Ehrenberg Bass Institute; reach all buyers consistently, when reach and reach alone is a more important factor than any targeting in determining growth. However when brands do not fit the FMCG mould, or can’t summon the budget required to cover the whole market, then there is a strong case to be made for nuance, context and crafted media placement.

In this instance, the company you keep really does matter, in behavioural economics, framing effect refers to the principle that information is not static, but fluid based on how, when and where it is communicated. In other words, people's decisions tend to be affected by the way in which the choices are framed through copywriting, imagery, tone, pricing and placement.

Lumen research provides evidence that attention drives recall and choice and therefore a medium that can deliver not just greater dwell time, but also aims to be in the time and place where the audience’s mind is most open, is going to be more effective.

Since Apple retired the 3rd party cookie in 2021 and with Google scheduled to follow, contextual advertising has always been a simple effective solution to garnering attention and from the right audiences but still requires a data-led and insight driven approach to deliver meaningful outcomes.

Research supports the need for contextual solutions. A study published last year by Playground xyz examined 683 creative assets from 59 advertisers across more than 2,200 digital domains. It investigated the impact on attention of different “context categories” – say, a beauty brand running ads on a style and fitness site, a women’s fashion platform, and a women’s clothing property. The results demonstrated that a top-performing contextual category delivers a 94% uplift in attention versus the average.

Media measurement metrics, whether reach & frequency or impressions, only tell part of the story of how a media plan is being executed, the real power is in understanding the impact on audiences through the media they choose to consume. As audiences flow across their media, the medium is still a powerful reflection of the brand and what it wants to communicate, and therefore how we invest, how and where we place media really does matter.