Tuesday 12 August 2008

This piece of text is on an alternative medium

Although difficult to accurately define, alternate media can be seen as the use of tactile and non mainstream media options in an effort to reach the increasingly illusive and all important consumer. On hearing the word alternate, the first question that springs to mind and rightfully so, is alternate to what? The answer to this is widely left open to interpretation, but essentially it is an alternate to the print, radio and TV options which have and in many respects still are the favoured media of traditional above the line campaigns.

I recently was invited to participate in a venture being headed up by a brilliant young guy called Dan Goss. He is leading a humble and tight unit called Top of Mind. They are breaking ground in the alternative media space. I have asked Dan a bunch of questions and he has given me some insightful answers. Let's jump in. "Alternative media can be narrowed in focus to ambient media which many people associate with underground or guerrilla style campaigns, but I believe ambient media and alternate media do not have to have such sinister, invasive or dark connotations at all! They are simply media options which are now available to advertisers who are trying to reach consumers who are busier, more mobile and more on the go than ever before. When this is coupled with the fact that we are experiencing an explosion of media options and a fragmentation of main stream media - just consider how many new magazine titles are on the shelves, how many new TV channels are available and the multiple newspapers that consumers can choose to read - it is clear to see why alternate media is now more important than ever before." Dan is spot on. Think of this forum here. This blog is considered alternative media at this point in time. But, let's project a few years into the future. The Web is going to be the most important point of contact when it comes to the consumer at large.

In the late 80's in America it was widely accepted that in order to reach 80% of the female population all an advertiser would have to do would be to place one prime time advert on three main stream TV channels. It would require far more strategy, planning and budget if one wanted to achieve the same objective today. So, as the life of the brand looking to influence consumers has become more challenging, so they have been forced to consider alternate media channels. For advertisers in many respects the good old days are gone. Just consider how easy an advertiser's task would be if there was only one billboard available on the M1 highway and that consumers were not as skeptical as they are today. Think of the Marlboro cowboy telling consumers to smoke Marlboro and hoards of consumers rushing off and doing just that!

So, in an effort to engage consumers in a meaningful way alternate media takes a close look at consumers' habits and looks to engage and interact with them at the right time and place so as to influence their decisions and brand perspective. "Overseas we are seeing budgets being shifted away from traditional media and towards alternate media in a significant manner. Proctor and Gamble is considered a leader in this sphere and they are aggressively shifting their budgets from TV to online strategy. Philips launched a shaver for men using only You Tube and their sales outstripped even their most aggressive forecasts!" Again, Dan points out that the old way of doing things is starting to change, and a forum like this one here is going to be become more mainstream with each passing year.

"As soon as you mention online in South Africa people are quick to note that we do not have the Internet penetration of a country such as the US. This is true and what is all the more interesting is that even with their high Internet penetration the fastest growing alternate media in the US is the in-store media channel. Savvy advertisers have caught onto the power of retail. Not only is it the point in time when the actual purchasing decision is made - it is widely accepted that 70% of purchasing decisions are actually made at the moment of purchase - but it is also the place and point in time which continues to see increasing consumer numbers and traffic. When one considers the power and reach in a local context we note the following: Shoprite sees over 10 million unique customers a month and a staggering 434 million transactions a year. AC Nielsen reports that 65% of South Africans have shopped in the Shoprite group in the last 12 months."

Advertisers are quick to defend traditional media based on its reach, but when one considers the above numbers it is easy to see why this belief is changing and will continue to change. The in-store environment is offering the perfect alternative to traditional media and spend is being allocated to this new medium. We now regularly see in-store TV screens, we are familiar with in-store radio and it is common place to see advertising messages on the points where we sign our credit cards.

Dan gives us a compelling closing comment, "The alternate media revolution is upon us and with the continued growth of alternate media it might not be too long before the alternate becomes the mainstream."

Posted by Ronnie Apteker