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Integrated Marketing Plans Fall Short

  |  December 8, 2008   |  Comments

Studies provide evidence that media work synergistically to boost the effectiveness of each other.

Remember integrated marketing? We all used to pay lip service to the idea back in the day that marketing needed to encompass various disciplines and that traditional advertising, PR, direct marketing, and so on should work together to reinforce the impact of all communications. For most of us, this is now a given. Even speaking of integrated marketing feels like an anachronism. Why talk about something that's so obvious?

But is it? Though the commercial Web has been around for more than a decade, it's still the "other" for many companies. Sure, we've come a long way from when the IT guy managed the corporate Web site (thank goodness!) and when just about every marketing plan contained online elements. But I'll go out on a limb and say that for most companies when it comes to the digital realm, integration is still more about hitting the expected checkboxes than about philosophically understanding what integrating online and traditional marketing really means.

Yes, you might work in an incredibly enlightened organization where this doesn't happen. My experiences with other agencies and with numerous clients suggest otherwise, however. It's still a hard sell to ensure that media planning incorporates all the media our audiences encounter every day in a way that addresses how they use that media and when they're exposed. Think about it: in this day and age, buying dayparts for online media is still relatively difficult. Yes, there are properties and networks that do it, but it's not obvious enough that it's just common practice. This doesn't make a lick of sense.

Due to an dearth of adequate tools, we all struggle with measurement and effectiveness across media. Various media are measured individually. While the entire cross-media campaign also gets measured, it's tough to suss out how advertising in one place affects what happens in other places. At the same time, thinking from a creative standpoint about what should be done online or what should be done in print (or TV or other traditional media) rarely seems to happen.

Today, it's not enough to have a nifty idea for a viral campaign or a billboard or a guerilla campaign or a print ad: creatives must think about why they should be doing what they're doing not just based on their own individual expertise but also based on what's going to be most effective for the audiences they're trying to reach. Again, it's the philosophy that gets left out of the mix: we do things because that's the way it's always been done or because we have a bias (or an expertise) toward one medium or the other, not because we are necessarily thinking about what's going to work best.

Some interesting studies have looked at synergy built across media. Specific Media, a display ad network, recently published a study that finds in certain categories (such as travel and health), display banner ads had a huge effect on natural search traffic. While we may have to take this study with a couple of grains of salt (it was published by a banner network), it reports that display advertising increased natural search by nearly 300 percent in the travel category. That's a big boost generated by simply being exposed to those banners. Specific Media's findings are significant enough that they are worth thinking about.

IProspect also did a study last year and found a similar synergistic effect between print and Web traffic. Offline channels such as television, word of mouth, and print were by far the largest drivers of search traffic that actually resulted in a sale.

A more academic look at a similar topic, sponsored by the International Communications Association, found "the employment of coordinated television and print program promotions led to higher attention from audiences, improved memory, higher perceived message credibility, more positive attitudes toward the promotion and toward the program, and higher viewing intention compared to using repetitive single-source promotions." Exactly what most of us are looking for!

The point of all this is there's a lot of evidence that media work synergistically to boost the effectiveness of each other. Companies like iCrossing are worth examining because of their research that looks across media, rather than studying each medium or ad in a vacuum. Such studies' findings make it clear that integrating our marketing activities means achieving more than the sum of the individual parts. We marketers must adopt this philosophy when thinking about our campaigns, educate our clients about it, and work toward better ways to measure success in the context of total campagns as well as the synergistic effects across media.

This is nothing new. Integrated marketing has been around for a long time. But building a mindset that appreciates the full spectrum of possibilities has been difficult. It's time to change that.

Wondering where the Leading Edge column went? It's been updated and reborn as Emerging Marketing Tools by veteran Sean Carton. Tell us what you think!

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Sean Carton

Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.

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