Making sense of the media landscape today

The below article appeared in the September agency edition of the Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ) 


Never has the macro media landscape presented more challenges, question marks or indeed opportunities as it does today, as evolving consumer behaviour, increasingly rapid technological developments and changing industry practices conspire to create a media landscape that is as exciting as it is daunting for those working in this sector.

Kantar Media’s recently released DIMENSION study measured the media behaviour and attitudes of connected adults (‘connected’ defined as those who use two of desktop/laptop, tablet or smartphone to go online) across five different markets globally (USA, China, UK, USA and Brazil).

This consumer data was complemented by interviews with over 40 senior industry leaders from a range of company types – communications agencies, brands and media owners – in order to gain their views on the biggest challenges facing the industry and what can be done to overcome them. These interviews included six prominent leaders from across the media industry in Ireland, providing their views on key media themes within the context of the Irish media landscape.

The report findings can be summarised into four key areas which are summarised here, with the inclusion of additional perspective from consumers in the Republic of Ireland where possible using data from Kantar Media’s TGI study of consumer behaviour, attitudes and media consumption.

Overall consumer behaviour and attitudes to media and advertising

We are living in a mixed media economy, with established media forms still very popular amongst consumers. Across the five markets in which Kantar Media’s DIMENSION study was conducted, 96% of adults claimed to watch TV via a TV set, 88% listened to the radio offline and 79% read a printed newspaper.

Such attachment to traditional media is reflected in Ireland, with 30% of adults saying they rely on TV to keep them informed – the same proportion as in 2012. Similarly, 30% of adults today say they rely on newspapers to keep them informed, which is actually up by five percentage points on 2013.

The ongoing spectre of ad blocking and the rise of ad avoidance

The DIMENSION study reveals that today over one in five connected adults claims to use an ad blocker all of the time, which is similar to last year’s figure. Clearly this is an issue that does not seem to be going away any time soon. 

Kantar Media’s TGI study data reveals prominent levels of disenchantment with advertising in Ireland. The proportion of adults who expect advertising to be entertaining stands at 51% today, having fluctuated a little over recent years but ultimately hovering around near the 50% mark.

The proportion of adults in Ireland who say they find advertising a waste of their time has also remained fairly steady across recent years, standing at 36% today. However, there has been an increase in the proportion of adults who say they feel bombarded by advertising, up from 42% in 2013 to 52% today.

Those who say they feel bombarded by advertising are not particularly significantly more likely to be in the top fifth of consumers of any specific medium, suggesting that it is the combination of advertising from multiple sources that makes them frustrated. Similarly, they are no more likely to be of a particular age or gender – this a problem for all types of consumer.

A related issue to ad blocking is ad avoidance – something that is manifested in particular by growing use of TV subscription services that take their money from the subscriptions and consequently show no ads, like Amazon Prime and Netflix. Amongst connected consumers across the five markets of the DIMENSION study, 50% claim to pay for TV subscription services. Whilst 59% cite the main reason for doing so as getting content that they cannot get elsewhere, almost a third (31%) explicitly choose the absence of advertising as the main reason.

Today, 21% of adults in Ireland use Netflix or Amazon Prime – that’s over three quarters of a million people and a figure likely to grow rapidly.

Some industry leaders consider ad blocking to be one of the largest mass boycotts of any product or service ever, whilst others argue that the threat, whilst real, is exaggerated.

The importance of leveraging multiple messaging channels

The DIMENSION study found that consumers will use a variety of channels to gather information on brands – typically at least three channels – thus highlighting the importance of holistic, integrated approaches to media and communications planning from brands.

However, achieving a successful campaign leveraging multiple forms of media and being able to accurately measure the performance and return on investment of each in relation to the whole when there is little audience measurement consistency is not always straightforward (to say the least) and presents a major challenge to the media industry.

Leveraging the power of new technology effectively

New gadgets and other technology are created and adopted by consumers with ever greater frequency. The challenge for brands is how to leverage the potential of these in engaging consumers. This must be balanced against second guessing the extent to which each particular new piece of tech will catch on whilst it is still at the early adopter stage and recognising the most effective means of harnessing it.

To take smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home as an example, these are currently used by 14% of connected consumers across the five markets covered by the DIMENSION study, but adoption is likely to expand rapidly. With their voice activation, smart speakers are unlike other media devices and thus require a different approach from brands and agencies. But with new tech tending to add to rather than replace the range of devices and media channels used by consumers, how can finite resources be best directed to tailor messaging appropriately to every format?

Moreover, how can audience measurement of different media forms be made consistent in order to facilitate effective multimedia planning? And how realistic is such measurement if there is an argument that some media forms are used sufficiently differently to warrant different measurement approaches?

Clearly, if the answers to these challenges facing the media industry were straightforward, there would be no challenges. Whilst industry leaders do not all agree on the solutions to the themes that dominate the media world today, there is a broad consensus that the priority is to be able to sift the mass of consumer data available today in order to pinpoint what is truly insightful and to be able to underpin communication planning with solid, consistent measurement. In short, the momentum is towards integration.

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