Is Share of Voice important in online advertising?

A friend and colleague recently asked me for arguments to respond to a client of his that adamantly asks to see what their share of voice was, or is planned, for any given online advertising campaign – we’re talking display advertising here.

He believes, as do I, “that SOV is a completely pointless metric when buying web media.”  “I need to dispel this myth” he writes. Of course he identified frequency capping and media consumption differences off the bat, plus total fragmentation of online vs TV.

My own take on the question is also that SOV is “a” metric yes, but one which has very little relevance on the web. Let’s start from the beginning :

  • 1 traditional ad is 1 within a FINITE environment (12 minutes per hour on TV/Radio, 1 page out of 30 in a magazine, 1 billboard out of 50 in a region, etc…)
    • 1 online ad is 1 within an INFINIT environment:
      • A) web traffic is fluid and dynamic so not fixed
      • B) web pages are not all built with the same number and sizes of ads
        • they vary wildly
        • we can add more if we need to
  • 1 traditional ad = multiple impressions simultaneously. This means that your ad frequency is actually an average base on the # of ads run, the reach of each ad and the repeat audience of each ad.
    • 1 online ad = 1 impression at a time
    • Frequency can be capped – should be capped – thus making any SOV argument moot
      • Once you’ve reached the # people you wanted with the right message, the frequency you wanted them exposed to it, that’s it, they won’t see it any more.

SOV can become important in a niche environment, if you don’t look at individual ad creative but the brand as a whole compared to competition or others over the period of a year. But here you won’t be looking for the same rage % you’d want in print, radio or television. They’ll be much smaller – because of everything above.

SOV is the main idea when booking a sponsorship, but then, theoretically it should be 100% and alienate all competition, at which point it’s not worth mentioning…

Here are a few articles on the topic of Share of Voice:

  • Five Strategies for Fighting the Recession – Forrester
  • FM Folds OPA’s New Units Into a Premium Roadblock – ClickZ
  • Advertising, Social Media Skills – Jason Keath
  • Share of wallet, share of wall, share of voice – Seth Godin
  • Giving Voice: PandG Bullish On Ad Spending – Media Post
  • What are your thoughts on this issue?


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