Thursday, September 15, 2011

Email is the New TV, Only Slightly Different

How should we view email?

TV advertising is efficient because of its tremendous reach yielding a competitive CPM and it still captures a substantial portion of the overall advertising budget. What it lacks is a high degree of targeting and interaction and thus is accused of being one-way. It often takes tonnage to get thru our personal ozone layer which in turn is often interpreted as shouting.

As a channel, email is running into some of the same challenges. By the time you work through open rates and click thru figures there isn't much room for effectiveness left. Because the price of an 'eblast' (another term I despise) is seductively low it is tempting to mail everyone possible as often as possible. I now divert all newsletter, corporate, etc. email to a dedicated address that I don't have on my phone - can't be bothered. This spray and pray model sounds an awful like broadcasting - a term some EMS providers actually use - and at 247 billion emails a day it is a reality. 

Add to the mix that email is about as interactive as a cable TV network and you quickly move to the smartphone for something better. The limitations on rendering and content almost create an orphaned technology; maybe this is why the new generation doesn't use it much as those of us who were weaned on it. And the final straw is that to keep the cost down the level of personalization is almost at the level of the gratuitous.  So what if you know my name....

Email does have value that we can't figure out yet with TV. The mere presence of an email address on file for a customer is often an indicator of their value. For instance a recent analysis of a customer's direct mail program showed that customers with an email, even though not used at all in the selection or communication process, was worth $7.00 on the transaction. This figure was derived from the two key metrics - response rate and value per transaction - both of which were higher for those with an email than those without.  

So, all is not lost - but maybe we should be rethinking our use of email.  Maybe we need to think like media planers and report TRPs along with our flights of engagement.....

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