The Web as an advertising medium is vastly underexploited in light of a unique new study revealing that Web usage dominates all other media in daily use. Additionally, the study found, chronic Web surfers tend to spend more freely than TV watchers.
The research, commissioned by the Online Publishers Association and conducted by Ball State University's Center for Media Design, tracked real-time media use of 350 people, recording their media interaction four times per minute. The results reveal the Web as a dominant force in media consumption as the only medium that ranks in the top two at both work and home. Predictably, Web use at work crushes television consumption, with a 54.6% reach, compared to television's 21.1%.
"Industry data shows that the Web takes up between 20 and 25 percent of consumers' overall media time, but attracts about 8 percent of advertising dollars," said Pam Horan, OPA president.
"While advertisers have been steadily moving to the Web in recent years, this research indicates the shift should be on a much faster pace. As a mass media with a powerful ability to extend the impact of all media, the Web clearly offers tremendous untapped advertising opportunities."
Not only does the Web offer the targeted saturation marketers are looking for, but complements other media as surfers often open up a browser while watching television or listening to radio. The research found that the Web increased the reach of television by 51 percent in the morning, 39 percent in the middle of the day, and 42 percent in the afternoon. Magazines, though, enjoyed the greatest benefits, as the Web more than doubles their reach.
"Based on our real-world observations, it is clear that consumers are consistently online even while they're watching TV or listening to the radio," said Horan. "This unique attribute of Web usage means that advertising messages receive a dramatic boost when online is part of the buy."
The findings that consumers are often double-dipping into the media pool jive with an earlier BSU study exploring the impact of two-screen gaming (interaction between television programming and supplemental Web activities). In that study, a TV-to-Web experience was regarded as a positive one for participants, who were also more likely to be paying attention to interactive commercials. Rewards like coupons or discounts (or larger prizes) increased participation.
Couple the fact that broadband is driving dramatic increases in daily (as in "all day," not "once a day") online activity with the fact that there are often two media complementing and supplementing each other, and one will conclude that the advertising industry is missing the boat into a huge sea of opportunity. They do this by not only neglecting Web advertising, but not looking more into interactive media messages.
If overspending for traditional media ad placement (or maybe "misallocation" is better than "overspending") were not enough to convince the marketer, then the next revelation may be. In what the researchers called "a final key finding," Web users tend to have greater buying power than television users.
Participants identified as heavy TV users had annual retail spending of $21,401, while the Web dominant group spent $26,450 on average – nearly a quarter more. In entertainment and recreation categories, the TV group spent $2,626, compared to $3,281 from the Web group, also 25% more.
"Getting a real-world look at how much consumers rely on the Web and on television allowed us to make important conclusions about spending power," Horan said. "Whether they're headed to the store for new clothes or planning a vacation, heavy Web users simply spend more money. In a wide range of spending categories, heavy Web users are more affluent and spend more than their television-centric counterparts."