Gustavo Ross: “Looking for the Long Tail Latin-American Consumer”

It is well known that in many Latin-American countries, particularly in Argentina and Mexico, there is an important gap between the share of media properties in media consumption and their share in the advertising pie. While the consumer is increasingly using social and niche online media sites, the amount of advertising dollars spent in TV and large online portals keeps increasing.

I can think of several reasons to explain this: From simple ignorance of media planners and buyers to more complex reasons. 

To start there are very few good research studies on media consumption and some of them have questionable methodologies, making their numbers unreliable. Media consumption studies keep thinking in the average consumer, underestimating the importance of habits and differences in the penetration of technologies. Advertising investment studies use mass media data and do not look at fragmentation and niche media consumption, but focus exclusively at mass media vehicles.

It is useless to focus on the average media consumer when there is a very clear trend of fragmentation in media consumption. Nowadays there are a variety of music types and thousands of possible channels to listen to radio or watch online television. Not to mention the great range of user generated content.

In Latin America, people are increasingly consuming a very personal combination of media and get content tailored to their very particular interests. Media and content are increasingly diverse as the consumer gets lost in a long and infinite range of options. It’s true: We all know the horizontal portals and we look at them once in a while and we watch TV occasionally during lunch or even at work.

Obviously, the largest audience figures are obtained by mass media. Most niche media properties would only appear in audience rankings if the researcher asked every person separately what media he or she consumes. The crucial questions are the following ¿where are we putting most of our attention? ¿when, and in which particular media are we most receptive to different messages? ¿what kind of content is relevant to whom? ¿how can we make the advertising relevant for us and effective for the brand?

It seems that advertising agencies have not been able to answer these questions in an honest way. In fact, if they answer these questions honestly their business model would be at risk. Advertising Agencies have to concentrate on media that offers content to the average audience to get economies of scale in the media buying they do for different advertisers. In fact, they are able to get lower consumer impact costs, but they are less effective when it comes to the results of the brands. This is due to the decreasing relevance that popular (mass) media has for most audiences.

Although we as consumers walk away from “the average” searching for what we really care about as individuals, many corporations and agencies keep on doing the “old fashioned thing” and only use the media vehicles that ComScore, Arbitron etc. rank as the ones with major penetration. Or worse, they buy media in the boss’s favorite TV show or newspaper.

Do we need better measurement systems and metrics? Is the incentive to do the hard work, and the right thing for the client, not big enough so that we end up doing the “old fashioned easy thing”? Or even worse, is the agency commission (or corruption) for the media buy more important than obtaining results for the client?

As we try to overcome these challenges in our industry, the consumer is getting lost far on the horizon along with the business results for the client. The future is not dark, if we stop talking to the “average client”. Some agencies are already taking advantage of new and intelligent technologies of segmentation and dynamic optimization. These technologies help to pinpoint and profile consumers individually in order to supply them with relevant advertising that gets better results for the client..


Gustavo Ross Quaas is the president of Acti@Mente
Presidente of Activ@Mente


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