In recent years, as first the fixed Web and then mobile have established themselves as viable marketing channels, brands have started to divert some of their marketing budgets away from TV to other platforms.

But, until now, there has arguably been no reliable way of calculating the extra reach they get for their advertising on screens beyond the TV. These include personal computers, mobile, and tablet, but also game consoles and “over-the-top” (OTT) platforms such as Apple TV and Roku.

Now YuMe, an online video specialist, in partnership with research company Nielsen, is attempting to put that right with a new tool called the YuMe Calculator (a.k.a. the “Reachulator” – get it?). The basis for the tool is an online survey of 5,125 people in five regions (roughly 1,000 in each), namely the UK, France, Germany, Spain, and the Nordics.

The survey asked a number of questions relating to device ownership. For example, in the UK, 99% of respondents owned a TV; 97% had a PC; 68% a smartphone; 46% a tablet; 45% a game console; and 19% a smart TV. The number of devices per household is 4.8 for the UK, compared to 4.3 for France, 4 for Germany, 5.3 for Spain, and 4.7 for the Nordics.

The study also looked at device usage while the TV was on. The results here show that, on an European Union-wide basis, 68% of TV viewers are on their smartphones; 66% are on a laptop; and 66% also are on a tablet, with 44% on a desktop PC.  

“People talk about second screening, but actually, you could argue that the TV is the second screen, and that the primary device is the one in your hand,” says YuMe Chief Operating Officer Ed Haslam.

Another part of the study concentrated on millennials, the 18-34-year-olds who are allegedly so hard to reach via advertising. This revealed 89% of them use a connected device while watching TV, and that 44% of them do so in order to access content related to what they are watching on TV.

In addition to this study, the two companies conducted a separate but related one among 700 respondents in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, where the participants were exposed to ads across multiple devices and then asked about brand recall, propensity to buy, and other brand metrics.

The point of the studies is to attempt to prove two things. First, that the more devices advertising content is seen on, the greater the ad’s impact will be, particularly if, YuMe says, the content provided for each screen is tailored to that screen.

Some might say, and I would be one of them, that this is so self-evident as to be barely worth noting. If I see an ad on TV I might remember it. If I also see a version of the ad on my smartphone, my tablet, and my laptop, I am surely much more likely to remember it, no?

It’s the second proof point where it gets slightly more interesting: That by shifting budget away from TV to these other channels, your ad will achieve greater reach.

In fact, in one example given by the companies, given a certain advertising budget to play with, an ad that ran on TV only in the UK would achieve a reach of 32.8%. Some media agencies might feel this is a rather low figure for a TV campaign, but I don’t think that’s the real point of this example.  

If 10% of the budget is diverted to other channels – in this case, all 10% going to online – that reach of 32.8% rises to 33.7%. If you then take the 10% taken away from TV and divvy it up so online gets 4% and mobile, tablet, and OTT TV get 2% each, the reach figure rises to 35.7%.

Taking it further, if you divert 20% of the TV budget to online, the reach figure rises to 36.2%. And if you divvy that 20% up so online gets 8% and mobile, tablet, and OTT TV get 4% each, the reach figure rises again to 39%.

That’s 6.2 percentage points higher than when all the spend went on TV, or an increase of 19%.

What’s neat is what YuMe and Nielsen have done with the data. They have fed it into the aforementioned YuMe Calculator and made it available as an online resource that you can access on your PC or smartphone.

The data allows you to see what effect diverting a certain percentage of your TV budget to other channels would have on the reach of your campaign among the overall audience, or among certain age groups, or males only or females only.

You can amend the total budget and the amount shifted away from TV to see what impact the changes would have.

Five minutes spent playing with it will be far more helpful in explaining exactly how it works than any words I can write. Personally, I think the tool will have credibility only if the big media agencies start using it in their planning and find, when they analyse campaign results, that the changes made to the budget had the effect on reach that the tool said they would.

The media planners and buyers at the launch of the calculator in London on June 3 did seem genuinely impressed. When I spoke to James Chandler, global mobile director at Mindshare, to get his view, he told me: “It looks neat, and fair play to them for coming up with it. But I would be surprised if most of the big media agencies don’t have their own proprietary tool that does something similar, where you plug in all the channels, play around with the budget allocation to each, and see what it will mean for the campaign.”

Chandler continues: “It’s a sign of a bigger trend in media planning and buying now where the sort of people finding jobs in media agencies are econometricians, statisticians and predictive modellers; it’s all about Big Data.”