The economics of guerilla marketing


We recently built a media plan for a client that included a few alternative marketing concepts — not lights under bridges in Boston, but potentially street teams, projections on the sides of urban buildings, rolling Segways on college campuses, that sort of thing. Trouble was, when you compare guerilla marketing vs. traditional media on a CPM spreadsheet, the costs look out of whack. CPMs for traditional cable or print, when targeted to tight geos and demos, are $15-$75. Guerilla marketing that might reach a few hundred or thousand people has a CPM of $450 or up.

Clients shake heads. Nice innovation, they say. But no thanks.

Then, we rethought the math. Are all impressions equal? If a consumer hears a radio spot, do they really listen, and then tell others? MRI tells us no, there is usually 66% or more waste from consumers exposed to your ad who are not paying attention. Now, if a consumer sees a brand-flag-waver in brand-color spandex on a Segway rolling down the street, will she notice and talk about it later? Yep.

The calculation is tricky. You might estimate true imprints (guerilla) have 100% impression comprehension vs. perhaps a 33% impression recall from old-school media. You might then say dramatic imprints (guerilla) have a tenfold chance of being told to others. Add it up, that’s a 30x bang for your buck, or a CPM down from the $450 range to $15.

We don’t know for sure if people really notice. So we sent a gorilla over to your office to check.

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