ESOV: An excessive focus on the wrong thing?

The ever-lasting importance of creativity and fame in creating extra share of voice

The accepted correlation between media investment to achieve ‘excess’ or ‘extra’ share of voice (ESOV) and growth in market share is being challenged. When behaviours change, our models need to follow.

Twenty years ago, the relationship between achieving ESOV – namely attaining a higher share of advertising voice than your brand’s market share – to grow that brand’s market share was a banker in a world of unfettered attention to a few monolithic media platforms. Every investment in generating 10ppts of ESOV would be expected to result in about a 0.5ppt increase in market share, depending on the brand’s category.

Fragmented modern media environment

But in our more fragmented modern media environment, you could spend the same amount of money to try and achieve the same theoretical ESOV, and not get the same return. The word ‘reach’ has been somewhat corrupted. We all know that a ‘unique user’ who ‘sees’ (or doesn’t see) a below-the-fold digital banner isn’t the same as someone confronted with a 96-sheet poster on their commute home. Not all impressions are equal, though a line-by-line media plan may present this as the case.    

In ‘Attention and Effectiveness: Why one makes a difference to the other’ (subscription required), an article for WARC which summarises research commissioned by Advertising Council Australia, Robert Brittain and Peter Field state that “In our opinion, an ad that can hold people’s attention for longer is creatively stronger... higher-attention media platforms come at a cost, but, given their greater effectiveness, you get what you pay for and then some. It is on these media platforms that the competitive advantage from creative strength is amplified.”    

Their analysis suggests that attention would be a more accurate form of currency to measure modern media plans for the modern media-consuming people that we want to speak to. But hasn’t being noticed always been what any of us want to achieve for the brands we work with? A person can’t think, feel, or do anything differently if they’re blind to the stimulus that’s trying to prompt them to do so.

The most talked-about ads have always been the most effective

True ESOV today needs to be predicated on creating campaigns that cut through to garner the attention of the public, and ideally get talked about. People today may have many ways to ignore ads, including lots that weren’t available to people 20 years ago. But I don’t believe it’s controversial to say that the most effective ads today are the ones that are most talked-about and that this has never changed.

Historically, fame has been a very difficult thing to measure, but brand buzz or brand attention are metrics that actually seem easier to track today (even if these can still be very ‘noisy’ measures). Conversely, ESOV has become harder to measure over time because of questions about the transparency of ad viewability and spend on digital platforms.

Investing in ESOV is not a guarantee ads will be seen

If anything, expenditure on increasing SOV through media investment has become even more probabilistic; it represents investing more in the chance that someone will see the advertising, rather than a guarantee. Creative, on the other hand, has always been at home competing to be noticed in a world of scarce attention.

Yet the industry is still largely talking about ESOV as something defined by budget allocation relative to competitor spend above all other factors. This is despite knowing that fame-driving campaigns are likely to increase ESOV efficiency and generate the highest ROI of any type of campaign.

At the EffWorks Global 2023 Conference, Paul Dyson, Co-Founder of Accelero Consulting, shared his analysis of ROI data ranking the quality of advertising creative as the second most important multiplier of advertising-driven profit (brand size was the most important). He hypothesised about the differential impact creativity can have on ROI by extrapolating from the fact that the highest ROIs reported by cases in the IPA Effectiveness Awards were up to sixty times the size of the average ROI of EMEA advertising campaigns measured by Nielsen.

Perhaps it’s time we challenge ourselves to reframe our thinking to see ESOV as a creative output driven by fame, with media as a creative amplifier – and not the other way around.

Bhavin Pabari, Strategy Director, Mother London

In very simplistic terms, we might frame this as:    

Creative as an ESOV driver

More FAME → More ‘Extra’ SOV → More SOM (→ More ROI)

Creative as an ESOV inhibitor

Non-FAME driving creative → Reduced ‘Effective’ SOV → Static or decreasing SOM (→ Worse ROI)

When behaviours change, our models need to follow

In a world where it’s never been easier to figuratively and literally skip the output of our entire industry, perhaps we should skip past traditional media metrics altogether? Rather than OTS, or opportunities to see, should we be talking about OFF or opportunities for fame? Why not build our creative and media campaigns around this shared objective to generate the ROI that brands employ us for?

The people we want to communicate with aren’t behaving in the way they always have. Recent Ofcom data shows even those aged between 65 and 74 watched 6% less broadcast TV in 2022 than they did pre-pandemic.

The speed of change means any new models may not last nearly as long, either. But creating effective marketing is about looking forwards as much as it is looking backwards. It’s incumbent upon all of us not to be timid about it.

For more on effectiveness, catch up on EffWorks Global 2023


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not his agency and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 01 May 2024