Marketer to blow whistle on reach of social media

Marketer to blow whistle on reach of social mediaCC Public Domain

British marketing and branding specialist Mark Ritson will give a series of lectures to the Australian Association of National Advertisers later this year which will recalibrate thinking in terms of the reach and effectiveness of social media over established media platforms, such as print.

Professor Ritson, who is head of Marketing at Melbourne Business School, will conduct four talks over six dates in Sydney and Melbourne, from May 24. His first lecture is titled Marketing Deconstructed: Communications – the death of the digital/traditional divide.

Like Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and chief executive of WPP, Prof Ritson believes the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are over-rated by some marketers, who choose to ignore the proven engagement of traditional media.

Prof Ritson says the belief in social media as an advertising platform has become fashionable among some marketing executives who blindly denigrate television and print.

To back his position on the strength of traditional platforms, Prof Ritson cited data from Nielsen’s global trust in advertising survey published last September. The report showed 63 per cent of people trusted TV advertising, and 60 per cent trusted print ads, but only 46 per cent trusted ads served on social networks.

He also questioned the value of social media ads and some of the statistics quoted to prove their value.

In a lecture in Canada last November, Prof Ritson focused on the celebrated Oreo tweet sent during a power outage at 2013 Superbowl in New Orleans.

The tweet said: “Power out, no problem” and carried a hyperlink to an image of Oreo biscuit, with the message” you can still dunk in the dark”.

It was hailed as the “tweet heard around the world” and lauded by commentators as the ad that stole the Superbowl, but its reach was negligible compared to a Budweiser 60-second ad screened at the game.

A breakdown on the figures based on a click through rate of 2 per cent by Oreo’s 65,000 followers, and amplification of 15,000 re-tweets based on the average number of 208 followers per average American, meant only 63,400 would have seen the ad (after the 2 per cent CTR was applied).

In comparison, the Budweiser ad would have been seen by 50 million people, based on the viewing audience of 108 million and an eye-on-screen rate of 47 per cent a rate.

Prof Ritson described by Oreo tweet as a nice piece of tactical marketing. “But on what planet does that win the best and most impactful thing at the Superbowl,” he said.

He also compared the engagement of a 2-second tweet and a 60-second TV ad.

“It’s symptomatic of the culture we have created that marketers are reticent to investigate social media in any more detail than saying, digital is the future,” Prof Ritson said in an interview with The Australian Financial Review.

He also said that despite the hype surrounding video, TV was the most viewed platform.  “Eighty-five per cent of video is watched on a television,” he said.  “All some marketers see is 8 million views on Instagram. The fact is that’s a tiny sliver of video viewing in Australia.”

Sir Martin Sorrell speaking at The Future Forum in 2015

Prof Ritson’s position is similar to that of Sir Martin Sorrell who told the Sydney Future Forum last year that the pendulum had “swung too far” towards video and online content.

Sir Martin also questioned the effectiveness of advertising on digital platforms like Google and Facebook, criticising the relatively low audience measurement standards used online, compared to the engagement of newspaper media.

“About half of all video is watched online without the sound. The scale that is used for viewership is three seconds. Now that I would even say is ludicrous in relation to the hurdle that a TV viewer … or newspaper readership has to reach,” he said.

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