In or out- the most important media segmentation

November 18th, 2011


A couple of years ago, I had a friendly spat with David McEvoy from J C Decaux over the fact I hadn’t included outdoor in my analysis of time spent with media, during my presentation at the launch of Touchpoints 3. My point was that all other measures were about time actively spent consuming a particular medium (i.e. claimed usage), whereas for outdoor it was time spent out of home (i.e. opportunity to see), producing an unfair comparison.

The conversation did set me thinking, though. There does appear to be a strong relationship between television and outdoor; when used together, they seem to aid advertising effectiveness, by working in a highly complementary way. Certainly, the IPA Databank suggests they work well together, and well over half of the prize winning case studies feature TV as a lead medium and outdoor as a significant support channel. The fact that one dominates our time in the home and the other is eponymous with the time we spend out of home suggests to me that the most basic media segmentation, and the one that is perhaps most relevant to the media consumer, is in or out; whether we are sitting in the relative calm and comfort of our own living rooms, or we are out and about in the big, wide world, getting on with our lives and managing to cut a path through all of the noise and distractions.

Whether we segment by mindset, context or location – all of which are proven to be influential in how we process and respond to marketing communications – the question of whether we are in or out of our homes is the most fundamental driver. Think about it; when we are in our own homes, we are more likely to be relaxed, switched off, with our closest family or friends in a familiar environment where we don’t need to think too much but we have more time to engage with what interests and attracts us. When we are out of home, whether commuting, studying, working, shopping or socialising, then we are more focussed, task-oriented, and surrounded by stimuli, much of it unfamiliar, all competing for our attention. We are also, ninety per cent of the time at least, closer to purchase (as offline retail still accounts for 91% of retail spend.

But let’s also consider the other 9% of retail expenditure. Until the rise of online, another part of the segmentation would have been that when we were at home we would have been unable to respond easily to what we experienced from the comfort of our living rooms. That is no longer the case, we can respond to anything at any time, although the nature of response does differ, depending on where we are and the mindset we are in at the time; we tend to respond to things we are personally interested in from our sofas in the evenings, whereas it is much more likely to be more functional items (e.g. car insurance) that we respond to online at different times of the day.

That said, the majority of our purchases are still offline, which means they can often only be completed when we are out of home. It is this relationship; the ability of our in-home experiences to engage us and create the desire or positive associations with the brand, and then out of home experiences to nudge us along, grab our attention or lead us to a purchase opportunity where I think the magic of in-and-out marketing communications resides.

When we are at home, television dominates our media time. According to the latest Touchpoints data, it is responsible for half of all our media time BUT between six pm and eleven pm – when most of us are settled at home with our loved ones –  it takes a massive seventy five per cent of our media time. Meanwhile, although technological developments like mobile TV will make it more of an out of home medium, it will never compete with outdoor for the out-of-home audience. It doesn’t matter – each media channel is doing what it does best in those two very different environments.

We know that people are more receptive, responsive and emotionally engaged when they are watching TV at home, and that this leads to stronger and more positive memory associations with the brand. Equally, we know that when people are out and about, a great deal does get processed, but much of it is beyond our conscious awareness. For the best demonstrations of this latter phenomenon, it is worth watching Derren Brown, especially his brilliant demonstrations of how to influence advertising copywriters to come up with a particular piece of creative ( or the equally impressive way he influences a woman to select one particular toy out of the many thousands stocked at toy megastore Hamleys ( Even though the ‘victims’ of these stunts had no idea they were being influenced by the tiny details that they had processed during their guided journeys with the arch manipulator, those details were enough to influence their behaviour so much that Derren could predict what they would eventually do, despite the thousands of alternative behaviours or choices they could have exhibited!

My point is that, for many of those out of home experiences to break through, they need to make sense, pretty much immediately. They need to awaken associations that are already firmly established in our minds and carry a meaning beyond what we can take in during the few seconds in which we may be exposed to the communication. They need to do this whilst we are often concentrating on something else entirely; crossing a busy main road, completing the crossword on a crowded train, scanning the aisles during a frantic shopping expedition or taking that all-important business call as we make our way from one meeting to another. The fact that outdoor will become increasingly audio-visual should cement this relationship between TV and outdoor even further.

So, like most media combinations, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and different media channels perform different functions within the communications process. With television and outdoor working together, the brand gets to be integral to the two major elements of people’s lives; whether they are in or out.

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