A world of possibility
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for accountability, and evidence, and measurement, all of that stuff. After all, I’m a man with an electrical engineering degree from a posh university. I’m no stranger to the science part. I’ve even enjoyed what some have laughingly called a “career” in media, where a large part of that so-called career has been spent initiating and implementing research studies. So I really can speak this language, and I also get how it’s now more important than ever when the pressure is firmly on costs and budgets.
But the simple fact is that we can’t measure or forecast everything that’s important in this business. We’re dealing with people here, and people are unpredictable. If we always knew how people would react it would make our lives a lot simpler. It would also mean that this media business would probably be run by computers and algorithms – although sometimes it feels like it’s heading down that road anyway.
The fact is that so much of what’s important in our world is less tangible, less accountable. For all of our award-winning audience segmentation, the fact is that two people from the same “segment” viewing the same ad in the same place may well respond differently. Or two different ads exposed to the same person in the same location may trigger a different reaction in each case. And that’s ultimately what makes the job so fascinating.
We do our best to predict how consumers will respond to our communications solutions, and I think we do a damn good job of it most of the time. But we can’t always rely on data, big or small, to predict the outcome. I have a wealth of this data detailing who’s passing through our airports and stations, and a shelf full of studies that show they’re likely to engage with the ads they see on our panels and screens. But, what I can’t demonstrate with a bar-chart is the unique and intangible benefit of displaying a brand message in such an iconic setting. The architect for Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 describes airports as “The cathedrals of the 21st century”, and advertising with that kind of stunning backdrop will be hugely effective for appropriate brands. Advertising will work differently in this world, a world of possibility.
It’s an emotional argument, not a rational one. But that doesn’t make it any less valid or powerful. I just can’t prove it with a graph.
Steve Cox is Marketing Director of JCDecaux Airport