Defining the disconnect between media and consumers

Defining the disconnect between media and consumers
A wide gap continues to exist between how consumers perceive the role of media and how industry professionals understand those consumer perceptions, according to a new study by Mediapost’s MEDIA Magazine and InsightExpress. The study asked identical questions of consumers and a panel of media agency executives. The media buyers still believe network TV is the medium of choice for consumers, but the real people pick cable TV and the Internet.

Overall, the survey findings reinforce existing industry perceptions that media planners and buyers have a disproportionate bias favoring network TV — and, in many cases, consumer magazines — in a way that is completely out of touch with the perceptions consumers have of these media. On the flip side, Madison Avenue appears to misunderstand the relative importance that cable TV and online media play in the life of the average Joe. But for the most part, it tends to minimize the value of radio, newspapers, and, to a lesser degree, outdoor media, especially when it comes to advertising.
There is, thankfully, a whole new energy emanating from Madison Avenue these days about media. It’s the dawning of the age of the consumer — a part of what I call Postmodernism — and Madison Avenue is catching on.
Instead of talking CPMs and GRPs, media shops are talking about consumer “engagement,” attentiveness,” and the newest buzzword of all, “context.” They’re conducting primary consumer research studies and they’re purchasing the types of syndicated research data that previously were used mainly by marketers and strategic branding agencies. They’re also hiring experts on consumer behavior — sociologists, psychologists, and behavioral scientists — all in the pursuit of one goal: understanding better how consumers relate to media.
This is all fine and good, but in the end, the real issue for consumers is power and control over their own media experiences, something that just doesn’t fit with existing advertising methodology. To successfully buy and sell in the future, merchants are going to have to get very, very close to their customers, without intruding in their lives or interrupting their media experiences. How the advertising institution addresses that will be interesting and educational, and industry efforts to better understand consumers is a good start.

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