Which Media Deliver the Best RoI?

Which_Media_Delivers_the_best_RoINo sooner had we reported recent research from ThinkBox which claimed that TV was the medium which delivered the greatest return on investment than that research is contradicted by a new study.ThinkBox's research, which analysed campaigns over a 5 year period, found that TV returned £1.70 in profit for every £1 spent, compared to £1.48 for radio, £1.40 for press, £1.06 for online static display and £0.45 for outdoor.In addition,the study found that TV was the best medium for delivering sales uplift - 2.5 times more effective than it's nearest rival, press.However, the results of GfK's Media Efficiency Panel, released last week, drew very different conclusions.Their research tracked customer response to 8 major cross-media advertising campaigns from FMCG brands that ran in the last year, across a panel of 7,500 consumers. Sales uplift was measured in the 2-4 week period after the campaigns had finished.Their findings contrasted sharply with those of Thinkbox's study. In this case, TV delivered the worst RoI of the media measured - just 43p for every £1 spent.  The best performer was online activity, which delivered an average 75p for every £1 spent, following by press at 66p and Outdoor at 53p.Online was also found to deliver the best sales uplift - 9% on average as compared to print's 8%, TV's 7% and outdoor's 6%.So how can 2 seemingly thorough pieces of research draw such widely differing conclusions? The differing scopes and methodologies offer some clues.For example, ThinkBox's research incorporated only static display: GfK's included more effective formats like online video advertising and search, which would have boosted effectiveness scores. GfK's research only measured short term RoI, measured over 2-4 weeks, something which is going to favour more responsive ad formats such as search and online display. In addition, GfK's study focused on FMCG only, a sector which already heavily invests - and perhaps over-invests as the research would suggest - in TV. And finally, one could cynically suggest that one survey was sponsored by a body responsible for promoting commercial TV advertising and the other study was conducted in association with Google, a body with a vested interest in online marketing, so the results are compromised by their sponsors.In truth, arguments about the absolute effectiveness of any medium are rather too general and largely unhelpful. Campaigns rarely happen in one medium, and it's exceptionally difficult to isolate the impact of any particular medium when all media will be playing differing, but mutually supportive, roles in the purchase process. Understanding how media can work together to optimum effect is the question that most marketers should be striving to find the answers to, and it's here that GfK's research does unearth some interesting insights.For example, their findings did demonstrate that online activity can deliver substantial reach - in this case, 34% of their panel.  This doesn't rival TV, with a 73% reach, but it is close to that delivered by press (39%) and exceeds that delivered by outdoor (29%).But perhaps the most interesting finding was the incremental reach that online delivered. Between 25% and 63% of individuals exposed to at least one online ad were never exposed to the respective TV advertising and 46% of people exposed to YouTube and other online videos ads had no contact with the corresponding TV ads for that campaign.In this case, online activity was not only found to play its traditional 'sharp end of the purchase funnel' role of turning interest into action, but to expand the reach of campaigns into hard-to-reach, particularly younger, audiences who tend to escape traditional media activity.The lesson from these findings is to think digital at the very earliest stages of planning - to understand how it can enhance and extend the reach of your campaign to audiences who may well not see any other channel executions - and not see it as purely a support for traditional media.