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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More on Reach
by Jaffer Ali

I usually like to use a quotation from a famous person that
has something to do with the article. I even found a good
one from Robert Browning, but thought better of trying to
be more erudite than I really am.

My last article was on reach and
after re-reading, thought it was incomplete. Why? Simply
put, the article didn't go far enough explaining just
how absurd the current definition is. I spent more time
redefining reach than explaining why the current definition
is overwhelmingly idiotic.

So let me put a final nail in the definitional coffin of
this poor, misconstrued media metric... bury it and rope
off the grave site; and threaten anyone who objects to me
speaking ill of the dead with an all-expenses-paid hunting
trip with Dick Cheney.

To refresh the minds of those who read my last column, the
current popular definition of reach is "exposure to a
particular ad". Let's dive down a little deeper and ask:
How does this definition apply to online advertising?

My interpretation of reach in an online context is the
physical appearance of an ad on a web page. And whereas
the ad in question clearly reaches the page, it doesn't
necessarily reach a person, at least not in any meaning-
fully measurable way. What?

Current reach metrics confuse the mere appearance of an ad
with an actual consumer impression. An ad that shows up on
a page but no one actually sees may satisfy the digerati
under the old definition of exposure as reach, but philo-
sophically (and I think, reasonably) it's like asking: If
a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it make
a sound?


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Over the past two days, I asked 23 people who work online
a simple question: "Can you tell me the last banner you
remember seeing?" Not a single person could recall a single
banner. Here are a few answers:

** I'm drawing a complete blank.

** I just ignore them.

** I can't think of any.

** I never look at banners.

One clever fellow offered, "That's easy... the Star
Spangled Banner"

I encourage you to stop and ask yourself that same question
right now. For that matter, did you even notice the ads on
this page? And this is the point... Defining reach in any
way that does not resolve with the audience is an utter
waste of everyone's time and money. Unfortunately, the old
axiom you get what you pay for never rang less true than
it does today online.

Is it even remotely controversial to suggest that effective
reach must be more than having an ad impression just show
up on a web page? For me the answer is obvious. And whereas
the status-quo interpretation of reach may satisfy the
intermediaries whose livelihoods depend upon never question-
ing foolish assumptions -- and hoping no one else does
either -- it can only fail to satisfy those who expect and
deserve more for their time and money.

Not surprisingly, brand advertisers are finding it more and
more difficult to achieve scalable reach. With DVRs zipping
past commercials, newspaper and magazine circulations in
utter free fall, and online ads now the victims of a
collective blind eye, brands are looking for a safe,
scalable solution.

I contend that to achieve scalable reach, we must first let
go of our failed and outdated way of defining it. I welcome
the opportunity to share my own take on the subject with
interested readers. Anyone who'd like to take me up on the
offer can reach me at 708-478-4500, ext 105.

Jaffer Ali is CEO of Vidsense ( which
offers a safe, scalable branding solution utilizing
video content.

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Questions? Comments? Email me at: quote (at)

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