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Hub Media Strategy

  |  October 7, 2003   |  Comments

The Web as the center of a communications plan. It's smart. It works. So why are agencies spinning their wheels?

I sat down the other day with some smart folks from Yahoo They were asking the standard rep meeting questions: What's going on with your accounts? What can they do better? Do you think the Cubs will make it to the series? (No!) What about the Twins? (Yes!)

They went on to explain how they felt we all might be at the proverbial tipping point. That's something I feel, too. "What can we do," they asked, "to actually get things to tip?"

I felt like responding with something like, "You know, everyone that walks through my door asks the same thing. Don't you think if I knew, you wouldn't have to ask? It would have tipped already!" Before I could snap out a smart-assed response, they started to answer their own question.

They discussed some research they'd done recently on the Millennial Generation (basically, anyone born after 1980). I half-heartedly listened, as our shop really doesn't have any business that matches up with the Millennials. But the research results were specific to media multitasking. Now I was interested. What they essentially did was provide a name (not a bad one at that) for what a lot of us have already been thinking: The Web can (and sometimes should) be at the center of a communications plan. The name is Hub Media.

Hub Media is the notion most or all non-digital communications in a plan should drive a person to the Web for a larger payoff. It's supported in this research by data suggesting the Millennial Generation multitasks at extraordinarily high levels. The one medium almost always present in the multitasking equation is the Internet. If they want more information about the clothes they saw in the magazine ad, they go online. If they want to tell their friends the referee blew the call on the last play, they IM or email. It's the pervasiveness of the Internet for the Millenial Generation that makes Hub Media viable.

Most of you are probably sitting there thinking, "Tell me something I don't know." The concept does seem a bit elementary to anyone who's been on this side of the fence long enough.

So here's something you (probably) don't know. Hub Media is appropriate for way more groups than just the Millenials. But (insert soapbox here) traditional agency business models, in my opinion, are the single largest hurdle for Hub Media adoption. Why? The contributing factors that drive this:

Lack of accountability

Traditional shops throw advertising into the market, then issue a post-buy delivery report. If all TRPs didn't run, they get a make-good. If the book didn't hit its stated circ, they get a make-good. As a colleague pointed out during the meeting, they don't look at how many people actually went to the dealership, although the ad had a clear call-to-action: "Stop by your Lincoln Mercury dealership today!" I fully admit marketers indeed look at how much inventory moves in relation to how much advertising is in market, but it really goes back to simple delivery, not to action. The line from inventory delivery to ROI is as dotted as a cheetah's back end.

Inability to make money on Web-based business

Plenty of traditional shops talk about media strategy and include the Web. More than you might think don't ever talk about it (or if they do, they bring up interactive as window dressing only, then quickly move on). They've never done anything online. Why? It's a self-perpetuating stalemate. They don't have enough Web business to justify hiring experts. So they stick to what they know and don't create strategies or campaigns that include meaningful Web components. Obviously, they never get enough web business to justify hiring subject matter experts. And the world passes them by. I blame this on the laziness that pervades most media departments. They work seasonally. Most don't challenge themselves to learn more about a medium that currently penetrates nearly 70 percent of households. Shameful.

Lack of creative minds thinking about the Web

By "creative minds" I mean creative directors. They're fixated on TV and, to a lesser extent, print. If they began to think in terms of the overall media experience -- how someone can be intrigued by a bus side, further interested by a TV spot, reminded by the back cover of a magazine (or a wrap-around on a coffee cup), and then be ultimately engaged by an online experience -- they might begin to expand their horizons. Unfortunately (in my experience) every time someone suggests such a novel idea to a creative, it's shot down immediately because of ego and the need for idea ownership. Whatever. They're a different breed.

These are the barriers and they're firmly in place. It doesn't mean Hub Media isn't the right thing to do in plenty of cases, even those directed at audiences outside the Millennial Generation.

A few examples:

  • Betty Crocker dessert advertising is typically print. Why wouldn't all those ads drive people to www.bettycrocker.com for recipes from the database? Betty has the Number One selling cookbook in history. General Mills can effectively cross-sell products within individual recipes, like Gold Medal flour or Pillsbury piecrusts. Visitors might opt in to a newsletter that delivers more recipes in the future (and ultimately drives more sales across multiple divisions).

  • In Ford's advertising, if there's a call-to-action, it's to go visit a local dealer. This is likely because local dealers are partially funding the schedule. But national stuff without the call-to-action could overtly drive people online to configure a vehicle, schedule a test drive at a local dealership and therefore move a prospect closer to purchase.

  • Financial services companies tend to speak in terms that draw on consumer emotions. Fact is, most Americans are financially inept and in need of help. Why not send them online where you can help them begin to frame their situation and empower them to learn what, among all the solutions, is right for them? Then direct them to an office. They'll have information and confidence firmly in hand.

That's this week's rant. This Hub Media strategy has real potential. We're seeing bits of it here and there. I'm sure most of you can envision it everywhere. What's taking so long?

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Mark Redetzke Mark Redetzke is vice president of online media for Zentropy Partners, a unit of MRM (McCann Relationship Marketing). He's led Zentropy's Minneapolis online media department since 1999, where he develops integrated online contact strategies and oversees all planning and buying. Current clients include Nestle Purina, General Mills, H&R Block, Microsoft, Overture and Sprint. Earlier, Mark planned traditional and online media for Campbell-Mithun. He's a frequent guest lecturer at conferences and graduate advertising and communications courses at St. Thomas University; the University of Minnesota; Minneapolis School of Communication Arts & Design and the 4A's.

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