For what seems like forever, the GRP (gross rating point) has been one of the main ways we think about how advertising reaches people. As comScore’s Josh Chasin says, “when advertising choices were limited, the GRP told you most of what you needed to know. But with today’s fragmented vehicle audiences, and with the complex processes advertisers deploy in moving prospects through the funnel, the GRP tells you less than ever before.”
The biggest gap? In the digital era, we have no idea whether our users are task-focused, or just farting around.
Proposing A New Measure: FAB.
I’d like to propose a new measure to evaluate media: FAB.
It stands for “Farting Around Behavior”.
I might have called it “Behavioral Availability” or “User Receptivity”. But those terms are fatally unmemorable, and they also don’t capture the essence of what I mean.
When we’re “farting around” our attention is up for grabs in a very specific way. We’re looking for something, anything that might entertain us. And that includes ads.
I think we need to find a way to measure FAB, and to harness its power. Here’s why.
Users Are Different Than Viewers
There’s a fundamental difference between marketing in the broadcast era, and marketing in the digital era.
In the broadcast era, we had viewers. Viewers have one intent: viewing.
Until the advent of digital, “I’m watching TV” mostly meant “I’m not doing anything.”
But in the digital era, we have users. And users, by definition, are usually doing something.
According to Nielsen, 42% of the time we’re viewing content. 36% of the time we’re checking email, buying Three Wolf t-shirts and other essentials from ecommerce sites, uploading photos to Flickr, searching, etc. And 22% of the time, we’re on social networking sites.
“I’m Online” can mean, “I’m totally available to pay attention to your advertising” or “I’m not available at all.”
100% FAB to 0% FAB in a Millisecond
While viewers have a single intent, users have multiple intents. What’s more, those intentions often shift radically within a single session.
Let’s look at an online session with Bob, on a Sunday night. He’s looking at LOL cats, which pretty much pins the meter on “farting-around behavior”. While sending a LOL cat to a work friend on Facebook, WHAM. Bob remembers he has to revise his presentation for Monday’s 8:30AM meeting. His online session continues, but now he’s feverishly searching for facts and images to make his boring PowerPoint sing.
When Bob shifts to being task-oriented, you can advertise until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t work. No FAB, no sales.
TV Isn’t Exempt From The FAB Problem.
TV was once a nearly 100% FAB medium. No more.
According to Nielsen’s Three Screen Report, in the last quarter of 2009, simultaneous use of the Internet while watching TV hit 3.5 hours a month, up 35%. Nearly 60% of TV viewers now use the Internet while watching TV at least once a month.
Simultaneous use is good news for integrated marketing: TV and social media go together like beer and hot dogs. But if you need someone’s attention, it’s also cause for some indigestion.
Advertisers Need More FAB Users
A common strategy at online publishers is to churn out as much content as possible in hopes of ginning up more page views.
Even if this can work short-term — and I doubt it – how can this be a sustainable long-term strategy? There’s already a content glut. How can adding more commoditized content to an already oversaturated market help?
Instead, online media should examine what already seems to capture FAB (“farting around behavior”) on their sites and start thinking of ways to generate more.
Better yet, they should start thinking about how to integrate brand messages within content that inspires FAB.
Simple flash games, online contests, and video seem like promising places to start.
Measuring And Monetizing FAB.
I’d like to see online researchers like InsightExpress and trade groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau do serious research on the effects of FAB on sales.
If my instincts are right, they should be able to identify sites that attract significantly more FAB than others, and the most FAB publishers should be able to monetize that.
User Intent Matters
Identifying sustainable practices that help advertisers sell is a critical need.
Understanding user intent seems like the right place to start.
Let’s go find the people online who are just farting around, and entertain them so they buy something.