Media Self Promotion – The Illusion of Demand

You might ask what has wakened me from a prolonged period of blogolepsy. It would have to be something bad to get me going again, right?
Well it is.
A colleague of mine exposed me to a Business Day article and subsequent Marketingweb review published on 23rd March. In this article a leading media agency reports that adspend in Mzansi reached a total of R36,2 Billion in calendar 2009. Growing 6% over 2008.
Aieesh! I really wish I’d seen the article earlier but I guess it’s never too late to settle the record and balance the books. However incorrect the initial reporting.
The bottom line is simply this. In 2009 advertising spend in Mzansi did not increase by 6% over 2008. In fact, it declined 0,6%.
The point of confusion stems from the bizarre practice of factoring in media self-promotion when calculating overall adspend. What is media self-promotion as opposed to media promotion?
When a TV station runs an ad in a major Sunday newspaper it is legitimate advertising expenditure, whether payment is by cash or barter exchange. When that same Sunday paper runs an ad on TV, or any other medium for that matter, that represents adspend and is legitimate media promotion.
When a newspaper runs an ad, in its own main body, promoting itself to its own readers, that’s media self-promotion. When a TV station surrounds its own programming with interminable station and programme promos, that is media self-promotion. Yes, those things that actually stop you from watching the programme, and turn a 30 minute sitcom into a 60 minute viewing event. Those are them.
We also know that media self-promotion increases in direct proportion to unsold inventory. If you can’t sell the stuff, then you might as well use it yourself. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, unless of course you’d rather that viewers watch your TV commercials, but there is a problem with calling it advertising investment. It’s a little like Edgars buying up all their unsold clothing, giving it to their own sales staff and calling it an increase in retail sales.
In 2009 reported adspend, including media self-promotion, was R36,2 Billion. Up 6% on 2008. Real adspend, excluding media self-promotion, was actually R24,4 Billion. Down 0,6% on 2008. Bear in mind that there was some pretty sharp discounting in 2009 and the decline is probably even more pronounced.
Who are the worst offenders? 90% of all media self-promotion occurs on Television. In fact, 50% of all reported Television adspend is TV station self-promotion. The worst of the worst? DSTV and Mnet account for two thirds of all TV self-promotion.
Why even bother with all of this? After all it’s just Nielsen Adex data. Well, here’s the implication
Increase in adspend = increase in demand = rate increase
Decrease in adspend = decrease in demand = rate decrease

What a wonderful tool media self-promotion is. The more you use, the more you restrict supply and the more apparent demand you create. So the next time a TV station sends you a no avails for your spot schedule, you might want to check just what is running instead of your commercial.
Of course we all understand why media owners perpetuate this this myth but it is a mystery why media agencies continue to buy into it. Or is it?