Binet And Field Return With ‘Media In The Digital Age’

At the IPA Effectiveness Week Genesis Conference, Les Binet and Peter Field unveiled the first findings from their third volume unpacking the IPA datamine for ad effectiveness nuggets.

Binet and Field may seem like unlikely Charlton Hestons, but it’s no secret how vital their first two books of commandments have been for the way modern marketers understand advertising. The first, Marketing In The Age Of Accountability, laid the groundwork for an approach that puts Fame and emotion in their rightful, central place in ad effectiveness. The second, The Long And The Short Of It, explained how effectiveness was best-served by a long-term focus.

Both these volumes were landmarks in using evidence-based marketing science to drive profitable brand growth. The new one looks set to be just as important. Here’s our summary of the session, from Chief Innovation Officer, Orlando Wood.

Les Binet began with the following anonymised quote from a ‘well-known marketing voice’ to represent current orthodoxy:

Brands need to move away from mass marketing to having more direct, personal relationships with their buyers”.

“I thought it was rubbish when I first heard it”, said Binet, “And now having done the analysis I know it’s rubbish.”

He said that this idea assumes that brands grow through loyalty, but if that were true you’d expect to see three things:

  1. Brands that are growing are growing their loyalty. Not true: penetration works far better (of the cases on the IPA database that show growth, only 7% are growing through a loyalty strategy compared with 22% growing by pursuing a penetration strategy).
  2. Brands that focus on existing customers should be growing fast: Not true: Annualised share growth achieved for those campaigns focusing on customers is 1.2% points, for those focusing on non-customers it’s 1.4% points, for those targeting everyone it’s 1.8% points
  3. You don’t need paid media for growth. Not true: average share of market growth per annum for online unpaid media campaigns: 0.9% vs online paid media campaigns 2.6% points growth. If you can get people to share your ad, you will see improvements in effectiveness but only with paid media in place. For growth, you need not only to place content, but to pay for it to bring it to people’s attention, otherwise you are “building cathedrals in the desert”.

So what’s really happening?

Profitable brand growth is driven by effectiveness. By looking at the thousands of cases in the IPA Datamine, Binet and Field have uncovered what is driving that effectiveness in a digial age. Thanks to the impact of the internet, And for effectiveness, you need scale. Which means video, Binet says – TV and online. It also means that several of the old rules now apply in modified forms.

  1. Scale is everything. For a penetration strategy, you need scale. And that means online video and TV, not either/or. Online video only campaigns saw a 25% increase in very large business effects. TV only campaigns saw a 33% jump. For campaigns which did both, the boost was 54%.
  2. Budgets matter more than they used to. The proportion of growth explained by Share Of Voice is getting stronger – it was 6% for 1998-2006 campaigns but it’s now 12% for campaigns 2008-2016. Cross-media synergy boosts effects and social media amplifies share of voice too. But to get SOV in the first place, you generally need to pay.
  3. Mass Media is working better than ever. Adding TV to a non-TV campaign has always paid dividends in terms of very large business effects. But this ‘TV boost’ is growing. From 1980 to null, adding TV as a channel boosted business effects by 12%. Between 1998 to null, TV added 27%. And since null, adding TV as a channel has seen a 40% boost in very large business effects.

This paints a rosy picture – keep on making great creative work, mixing online video and TV, and growth will be yours.

But it’s not that simple. While the effectiveness of different strategies is clear, the number of very large business effects achieved by campaigns has decreased sharply since 2012. Why?

What’s happening with outcomes?

Binet and Field pointed to four factors:

  1. Increasing focus on the short-term (8% of cases in 2006 had a short-term focus vs 25% in 2016). Campaigns need 6 months for long-term effects to appear and overtake any short-term benefits.
  2. In line with a greater focus on the short-term, greater proportions of the budget are being spent on activation rather than brand building. (31% in 2014 vs 47% in 2016). The most efficient campaigns and the campaigns achieving the greatest growth on the database still adhere to the 60-40 rule: 60% on brand-building, 40% on activation.
  3. Greater focus on ROI/ROMI, which is dangerous in isolation. ROI flatters and rewards sales activation strategies, not what will happen over the next year. In fact, improvements in ROI often come with targeting tightly and reducing your overall budget. What ultimately matters is profitable brand growth.
  4. A worrying trend in ESOV decline – from 13 percentile points in 2006 to 3 in 2016. In other words, brands are letting campaigns take the strain, not backing great creative work. This is the same for campaigns with short and long-term objectives. This means that share growth per point of ESOV is also falling.

Peter Field urged the industry to sort this out, and we’d agree. Effectiveness is about where you spend, not just where you save.

Summary and Conclusions

Binet and Field conclude:

  1. Marketers need to return to a more balanced perspective on long vs short-term objectives – meaning a greater focus on the long-term than of late.
  2. The activation/brand building pendulum has swung too far towards activation.
  3. Dial up brand building instead of activation, especially on newer channels. Value video over non-video.
  4. Design campaigns for long-term effects – the best way to do this is via emotional creative work.
  5. Monitor and restore ESOV – the link to growth is getting stronger, which means great work needs investment.

This was the key presentation of an excellent Effectiveness conference – and promises that Binet and Field’s third book will be just as game-changing as their first two.


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