Katherine Levy: Occasional users of brands are not just advertising wastage

Last week, Professor Byron Sharp, giving a talk at a Thinkbox event on how brands grow, said that Coca-Cola views a consumer who buys three cans of Coke a year as a "heavy user".

Katherine Levy: Occasional users of brands are not just advertising wastage

Those who buy two cans of Coke a year are, in turn, classed as "an average user".

So people like me, who very rarely buy a can (I had my first Coke in three years last week), could be classed as "occasional users". And an occasional user of a brand is surely not someone that a marketer should ignore.

And yet, this is not what many people would counsel. At least, those who believe that TV advertising involves "wastage". Allow me to give another example. I have never bought nappies, but one day I probably will. And I bet the brand I pop into my trolley will be Pampers, because ever since I've watched TV, I have been exposed to Pampers ads. I may have seen one when I was at home with flu watching an episode of Loose Women. Ten years later, that ad pays off when I buy the brand. And yet, some TV buyers would describe me as a waste of media spend because when I watched the ad, I was childless. How silly.

Sharp's point was that big brands grow not by talking to their existing customers or their Facebook fans - they already love you - but by speaking to peripheral consumers who might one day buy the brand. In a world where there are trillions of brands all vying for our attention, it is crucial that even consumers not currently in your target market are aware that yours is the best in its category.

Last week, there was another fantastic TV event hosted by Carat that also touched on this point, because Thinkbox's chief executive, Tess Alps (who naturally feels strongly about any accusation of TV advertising wastage), was also present. Alps cautioned that, in a world where advertising is becoming increasingly addressable, there is a danger of narrowly targeting. Alps says "wastage" doesn't exist because you buy the target audience you want. Any extra viewers are surely a bonus.

Channel 4's sales director, Jonathan Allan, says his vision is that, in two to three years' time, there will be individual, addressable advertising on 4oD. It is fantastic that we are on this journey where we can envision a world of tailored ads on catch-up.

But take this to the extreme, to where all TV exposure we have is micro-targeted, and we will be living in a world where only women have heard of L'Oreal - not their partners who buy them gifts - and only people over 50 have heard of Saga. I'll be 50 one day, and the current customers of Saga will all be dead. Brands that fail to recognise this could well be in for it.

katherine.levy@haymarket.com

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