Converge Your Off- and Online Media Plans

From time to time, I receive email from aspiring media buyers who wish to specialize in interactive media. Naturally, I encourage their interest in the online space. But I’m always a little perturbed to find most have no interest whatsoever in traditional advertising channels.

This could be because of an increased demand for buyers with Internet experience. Maybe the Web’s progressive placement opportunities are just more appealing. If buyers eschew offline media completely, though, it’s an oversight. Particularly since these two formerly isolated media are now very much intertwined.

The best example of this I’ve seen in some time is courtesy of cable networks VH1 and Bravo. Both recently launched new programs that showcase viral videos pulled from the Web. Consumers need no longer wait to receive the Dick Cheney spoof of Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun” from a friend via email. They can watch the online video on TV now.

Of course, media cannibalism goes both ways; television content has been available online for some time now. Portals such as Yahoo TV now offer previews of upcoming TV episodes, exclusive scenes, and flashbacks of important plot lines. And virtually every major TV network has found a way to transfer its content to the Web.

NBC has premiered new shows online in advance of its offline run dates. CBS has streamed shows on the Web in an effort to broaden its audience. Last year, ABC began selling downloads of complete, ad-free episodes of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” while the SCI FI Channel and USA Network, among others, have made some of their programs available on iTunes, turning house-bound programs into mobile video content.

Then there are instances of offline content making its way online without permission from the networks behind it, an increasingly common practice, particularly among young consumers who split their time between TV and the Web. Before NBC asked YouTube.com to remove its “Lazy Sunday” Saturday Night Live sketch due to copyright issues last month, it had been viewed over 5 million times.

Think of the implications the convergence of TV and the Web have for media buyers. An offline buyer can now purchase a :30 spot immediately following a video that was designed exclusively for the Web. Interactive buyers can secure online ad placements surrounding their target audience’s favorite TV shows, right from the Internet publishers and media vendors they’ve worked with for years.

You can see why understanding both on- and offline media is important. A buyer can still specialize in one or the other. It’s vital, in fact, when you search for a job. But these media now intersect in a way that can’t be ignored. That necessitates a change of perspective. It’s just as important for online buyers to be aware of their audience’s offline media consumption habits, as it is to understand their behavior and preferences on the Web. Without this broader scope of knowledge, you’re dealing with an incomplete deck.

The same principle holds true for planners and media strategists. I can’t tell you how many brainstorming sessions we’ve had in which we’ve referenced offline programming in an effort to better define and identify with our client’s audience. Of course, exploring ways in which to integrate on- and offline media is also essential. With online content migrating offline, an opportunity exists for interactive marketing agencies to create content that can potentially find an expanded audience on TV — without the added investment of a TV media buy.

If all this seems rather confusing, stay tuned. It’s only the beginning of media convergence. And what of those buyers who hope to specialize in online media? Time for them to turn on the tube.

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