Looking for something?

First off… no, I’m not going to launch into a hypersyllabic erudite-fest of Lacanian identity theory (you would need to give me a glass of wine first).

In this case, I pose the question in a media sales sense.

Riddle me this:

Let’s say you have 300,000 social locations in the US (bars, restaurants, etc). Each of these locations hosts an average of 200 patrons per night. Now say an advertiser is promoting his brand via OOH digital signage in 300 of these locations. That would give him 60,000 visitors (but not “absolute uniques”).

Would you still call this an audience of 60,000? Or, because you can’t discretely account for overlap in the same way you can’t truly determine uniques on a website (i.e. users may use more than one computer and advertisers are often buying space on a wide array of sites), can this only be referred to as “total visitors”?

Why am I getting all finicky with semantics? And does my next word problem have to do with two trains leaving stations in Duluth and Rotterdam? (No, but I have always wanted to go to Rotterdam…)

Well, because of this foxy little catch-22:

Well, because Dave Haynes and Barnaby Page are better at math than me.
Moving on…

Now let’s say an advertiser is promoting his brand in all of these 300,000 locations (the 200 person variable stays constant). That would give him a brand reach to the tune of 60 million total visitors.

Absurdly high, right? Or rightfully aligned with the OOH segment as a respective comparison to old media buys? Do the shifting means of media consumption (digital vs. print being the obvious example) affect the definition of “uniques”?

Put another way, would JayneKarolow-in-Applebee’s-at-9pm be considered the same “audience member” as JayneKarolow-in-JFKAirport-at-7am? Does the unique location make for a unique experience… and thus make for a unique piece of the advertiser’s audience?

I know you see my question forming.

When using the word audience… (quit the drumroll, it’s trite)

What are networks selling?

What are advertisers buying?

[The math on this post was edited at 8:29am on Saturday, June 14th in response to the comments of Dave Haynes and Barnaby Page, while I shovel my face full of humble pie...]

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10 Responses to “When is a person more than a person? *Edited*”

  1. E Says:

    When you are talking about a physical space, we refer to it as a brand impression.

    How are you arriving at your 200#?

    How are you determining the audience demo for each of your locations? That’s what advertisers care about – getting a brand in front of the right audience.

    I wonder what Evan will think of this – I will forward.

  2. DJ Says:

    Advertisers are always buying potential customers or leads to sales. To answer your first question – it’s a potential audience of 600. The same is true for 1.8 billion – potential audience, obviously non-unique.

    I think each unique location makes for a unique experience or impression, especially in bars/restaurants.

    Maybe instead of audience size, these should be considered unique impressions? As you state, there is no way to determine if each person is unique, so the word audience becomes a problem, because you can only know the maximum possible, which is impossible. Ha.

  3. LocaJayne Says:

    Thanks E and DJ,
    While I agree that on a general level, impressions would be the term to use, but it gets dicey when (as DJ says) you try to neatly equate “unique impressions” with “audience size.” The people ultimately end up folding back on themselves, which, unless you’re into group (errr….”audience”) yoga, starts getting debatable real fast…

  4. Dave Haynes Says:

    I’m hung up on the 600 number.

    It has been many decades since I sat in a classroom, but doesn’t 200 multiplied by 300 equal 60,000, not 600???

    The size of the pool of people who have an opportunity to view that ad spot, as far as I can tell, is that 60,000 number.

    And if Joe 56 and Joe 422 are two different people how would they not be distinct audience members.

    Either I’m confused or stupid, or you managed to get that glass of wine

  5. Barnaby Page Says:

    I’m with the erudite Haynes on this one – I don’t follow the math. 200×300 = 60,000, and 200×300,000 = 60m…which un-catchifies the Catch-22.

    But in answer to your general question “Does the unique location make for a unique experience… and thus make for a unique piece of the advertiser’s audience?”, I think the answer is that old compromise, “maybe”. We’re all different consumers at different times in the sense that we want/need/are receptive to/can afford different things depending on the immediate circumstances.

    However, for any given brand/advertiser, only certain of our ‘consumer states’ are likely to be valuable. I might be a good consumer for one advertiser at 10pm Saturday in the pub, and for another advertiser at 6am Tuesday at the airport, but it’s unlikely that vice-versa applies.

    For the network, however, it probably would be fair to count my two exposures in those very different ‘consumer states’ as two different people.

    Which raises the interesting question: should networks aim to be more diverse in terms of their location types?

  6. LocaJayne Says:

    Hi Dave,

    Wow… yes, 60,000 is absolutely correct. The fact that I used to be an SAT tutor should now send upwards of 50 parents in the greater Boston area into fits of panic.

  7. LocaJayne Says:

    Barnaby, I think we hit publish for those last comments simultaneously… Dave (“The Math Guy”) Haynes will be glad to have your back-up:)
    I’m going to go ahead and blame this one on publishing a blog post late on a Friday afternoon and go have myself a big plate of Bill Belichick’s favorite dessert.

    “Consumer states” is a great way to think of this… As I read Dave’s thoughts on JoeSmith56 versus JoeSmith422, I realized that I should have used more unique names to make myself clear. What I meant was JayneKarolow-in-Applebee’s-at-9pm versus JayneKarolow-at-JFKAirport-at-7am. Using JoeSmith was a recipe for misunderstanding.

    I’m going to go ahead and correct the post with due credit to you both… Thanks!

    Great closing question… more on that later.

  8. Paul McEnany Says:

    Okay, well first, I’d say potential audience is more than most media companies attempt to sell. Seriously, look at just about any other media. Its “audience” is total bullshit. The OOH corollary, billboards, is based on the number of cars that pass by. How many people are in those cars? Do they look up? How fast are they driving? Is there much traffic during those times?

    Or radio and tv, which base their audiences on almost a complete fantasy. Audience size is determined by a smallish panel in the first place, but we base advertising audience size on this dubious content audience prediction.

    And newspapers? Shit, just as ridiculous. The audience is based on circulation, with the only consideration given to the number of papers printed, not read or even bought.

    I would say that the argument for this sort of ooh would say that it has an audience of x people, but we have x research that shows that people in these places are more prone to buy x industry’s products. Like alcohol, or whatever.

    So bottom line, most networks are selling bullshit. Fake audiences based mostly on demographics. You win by being honest about the audience potential, but focusing on what is likely to be successful.

    Not sure if that’s helpful or coherent. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

  9. LocaJayne Says:


    you didn’t even throw down any f-bombs. impressive.

    you put this nicely. Using the term “potential audience” softens the edges of my question, while also cutting a more detailed portrait of the end user. It’s such a slight semantic shift; but, as a measurement (both quantitatively and qualitatively), it demands more from both the advertiser and the network.

    That’s also exactly where interactive networks come in with a leg up… in that not only can behavioral traits (e.g., as you say, “likelihood of purchasing alcohol”) be linked up with consumer profiles, but we can now actually measure brand interaction and trace it back to these fleshier demographic studies.

    Combining the thoughts of Barnaby and Paul, it seems fair to say that a healthy measurement of potential audience includes consideration of “consumer states,” both in terms of numbers and attributed behaviors.

  10. LocaJayne Says:

    also, Barnaby, your closing comment “Should networks aim to diversify location types?” is a question I’ll answer with a nod to SeeSaw Networks (full disclosure: LocaModa is a strategic partner) and their concept of life pattern marketing. Rather than targeting location types as an umbrella to consumer profiles, they’re focused on pinpointing “consumer states” (as you elegantly term them) and engaging one consumer during different pieces of his day…. from the gas station to the gym to the coffee shop to the grocery store to the bar…
    (well, as long as they aren’t leaving ice cream in the trunk when they hit the bar).

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