Media Fragmentation: the new media ecosystem

Today’s media ecosystem has clear characteristics that are radically different from just ten years ago:

● Abundant

● Cheap to buy - and sometimes free

● Cheap to populate with content

● But more expensive to reach mass audiences due to fragmentation

● Blurred…where once a channel had one platform, now it has many

● A shift of advertising away from mass media towards personalised forms of marketing including direct mail, the internet, mobile, retail media, word-of-mouth and so on.

● But all media is under pressure because of issues of accountability and ROI

In the US, the Number One TV show in 1970 was ‘All in the Family’ watched regularly by 60% of households. In 2007 it was American Idol watched by 17% of households. (Source: OMD)

Highlights from a recent US Nielsen study concluded:
  • In 2006, the average U.S. home received 104.2 channels, an increase of almost eight channels since 2005 and a record level.

  • As the number of channels available to a household increases, so does the number of channels tuned. In 2006, the average household tuned to 15.7, or 15.1% of the 104.2 channels available for at least 10 minutes per week.

  • The 30-second commercial is still the television advertising standard in prime-time accounting for 57% of all commercial units.
In the UK, BRAD’s data-base has over 13,500 media platforms (from newspapers to hot-air balloons as they describe it) where advertising can be bought; and BARB currently measures 227 TV channels.

It has been estimated that it was possible to reach 85% of the UK population with three TV spots in the late 1980s. Now it takes 180 spots. (Source: Campaign 2005)

This fragmentation of media and audiences has led to an undermining of the traditional, mass media-based advertising model but this should not be over-exaggerated. TV is still dominant. TV can still work effectively at building brands as can print and radio. And in times of economic uncertainty marketers will even more err towards the familiar as we have seen in 2008.

Whatever media choices are made, consumers are estimated to be exposed daily to over 3,000 advertising messages. (Source: The Guardian) It is possibly more, indeed numbers of up to 6,000 can be found quoted - though rarely with any attribution. None the less our own experience, if we only stop to think about it, would lead us to believe there that whatever the actual number there is a lot.

POPAI described 50 or more different types of in-store communication. Their research indicated that shoppers pass 1.6 items every second. In a 30 minute shop that would mean they pass 2592 pieces of communication. And then think that each brand’s packaging itself is a piece of communication.

However, despite this seemingly over-powering dominance and confusion of commercial messages, marketing does work. (Just that in its old form not as effectively as it should.)

This might well be due to our ability to absorb information with only a fleeting need to experience it. Dr Robert Heath of Bath University has used neuroscience to demonstrate the brain’s capacity to absorb certain types of brand information even when we pay virtually no attention to it. His research has shown that we routinely scan press ads in under 1 second yet we can still recall the salient message. In his opinion and experience, advertising is most often about fleeting glances and that we can build high levels of awareness and interest without ever being consciously aware that we have seen an ad. He has dubbed this Low Attention Processing. (Source: http://www.lowattentionprocessing.com/ )

This leads to the belief that much of what we do is sub-conscious and intuitive - including what we purchase. This is very much at the core of Benjamin Libet’s ground-breaking and seminal work on consciousness. (It might also explain why most new products fail but more of that later.)


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