Demise of “reach preachers” in the digital age…

Way back in the 1990s, we advertised regularly on radio for “adult” students for evening and weekend programs. The result was constant phone calls from media reps promoting “reach”… the ability to have a seemingly infinite number of people in an urban area hear our ads at an insignificant per-person cost.

The trouble with “reach,” of course, is that reaching people who have no special interest in what’s being advertising doesn’t make much sense. Much better to pay more money for the initial contacts if the result is more inquiries that convert to more enrollments. “Reach preachers” never wanted to talk much about conversions. Not their responsibilty.

That’s why Steve Rubel’s article today in AdAge  (“How Digital Media Will Deliver Tangible Results) struck a special note. Steve is writing about “reach devaluation” in the digital age. Here’s what he says:

“Although advertisers increasingly are exploring other metrics, i.e. engagement and reputation, reach still rules — at least for now. Unfortunately, reach is slowly losing its value as media consumption increasingly moves deeper into the digital realm.

“Where in the analog age we might be loyal to a given media brand, today’s consumers are far more agnostic. We’re more likely to dip into an array of online sources including traditional news sites, blogs and social networks — and often via search or social networks.

“All of this diminishes the entire concept of reach. After all, if a site claims that it reaches millions but they’re all just drive-bys, do such figures truly matter? In the years ahead, advertisers will rethink reach and not pay nearly as much for it as they did when they bought media based on a rate base and/or circulation. This will create tremendous disruption for media companies as they have to shift to new ways to prove their value.”

Traditional agency media people no doubt agree with Rubel that the devaluation of reach is “unfortunate.” But it isn’t. In the digital era, online advertising and our analytics software gives us the ability to track and measure results in a way that only direct marketers welcomed in the 1990s and earlier. And that, especially in a time of diminishing advertising resources, is only a good thing.


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