Cross-Media Challenges

eBay plucked agency of record status out of Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ hands this week, dropping the prize in the lap of Omnicom’s BBDO New York. Why? It wanted to integrate its marketing efforts across disciplines, and across media.

“This is very much about integrating everybody under one strategy,” eBay spokesperson Henry Gomez told me.

It’s a theme arising quite often these days. It could be due to a cyclical yearning for a return to the one-stop-shop, or marketers may simply be acknowledging the only way to deal with media fragmentation is with increasingly integrated planning. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying the reality. Consumers’ media consumption is growing ever more complex, and they’re increasingly in control of the marketing messages that reach them.

Companies must work with that trend, not against it. They can’t stick their heads in the sand and pretend the :30 spot is as healthy as ever. Yet consumers do still spend time with media that aren’t interactive (however much interactive folks would like to deny it). And with concepts like IPTV and DVRs, formerly hidebound media like TV are getting a lot more interesting.

These ideas are top-of-mind for me after attending Dynamic Logic‘s panel discussion on cross-media advertising in San Francisco this week. Speaking were Tom Lynch, head of brand strategy and advertising for ING Americas; Julie Roehm, director of marketing communications for Chrysler, Jeep & Dodge at DaimlerChrysler; Cory Treffiletti, SVP and managing director of Carat Interactive; Blake Chandlee, CPG development officer at Yahoo; Matthew Goldberg, executive director of Dow Jones Integrated Solutions; and Kyoo Kim, VP of sales at MSNBC.

What emerged were a few key themes that highlight the challenges and the opportunities afforded by this new media landscape.

Structure

“We are way the hell behind where they are in terms of consuming media and we need to catch up,” ING’s Lynch told the audience. “The reality is, that’s where the consumer is. That’s how they’re behaving. If we want to get through to them, we’ve got to find a way to make it work.”

Why are we so far behind? The biggest reason, panelists believe, is one of the most boring ones. It’s because of old-fashioned organizational structures — with marketers, at agencies, and at media companies. If companies aren’t structured to reward integration, if they’re embroiled in infighting over budgets, if they’re staffed with people who focus narrowly on their medium of specialty, integration is doomed.

“It’s a challenge,” acknowledged MSNBC’s Kim. “When NBC bought Universal, I looked at that structure and I thought ‘holy cow’.”

The “Big Idea”

Most important, everyone involved in the marketing process must align themselves around thinking of ways to achieve companies’ goals: selling cars, toothpaste, ice cream, mainframes etc., rather than simply delivering impressions, or spots, or half-page ads.

“What we do has always been about the idea,” said ING’s Lynch, noting his company has restructured to unify on- and offline marketing under one position. “We still have this tug-of-war [in the agency world] over who is driving the strategy.” Lynch says the paradigm should be for the idea to drive the strategy, “then we’ll figure out how to execute this.”

Dow Jones’ Goldberg believes media companies at least, must accept developing “solutions” (rather than just packaging media) require more than just restructuring. He believes it necessitates financial investment. Other panelists, conscious of today’s ROI-focused environment, think overhauling the org chart will be sufficient. But what happens to all those narrowly focused folks who know one medium, and one medium only? The future doesn’t look bright.

The Creative Challenge

The nature of the creative process is another big issue. It’s easy to talk about abandoning mass reach in favor of customization, Lynch noted, but, “You can’t do that when you have to go to South Africa to shoot a damned spot.” To recoup costs, advertisers necessarily re-use that spot in a variety of media placements.

Addressable set-top boxes and Internet video have incredible potential for targeting, customization and brand impact, but it’ll never happen if developing original, customized creative isn’t economically feasible.

Measurement Overload

One of the beauties of digital marketing has always been its measurability. It can also be the curse that hinders integration. ING’s Lynch recounts the old tale of how a person with one watch knows exactly what time it is, while a person with two watches is never really sure. “Right now, we’re walking around with 12 watches,” he told the audience. “We’ve got just enough data now to realize what we have is a huge hole.”

Carat’s Treffiletti believes the concept of measuring reach is dead, and the idea of frequency must be updated. After all, in a world in which consumers are exposed to myriad media daily, how can you know exactly how many times a person is exposed to your message, and in what form? He also said advertisers must look at the level of attentiveness to messaging — an idea that makes good sense, given the multi-tasking that goes on. But how?

Hope and Promise

The most optimistic notes at the event came from DaimlerChrysler’s Roehm, who said her company brought all its marketing functions under one umbrella. She also praised agencies BBDO and Organic for working together collaboratively. To measure success, the company develops templates for media plans, which differ depending on the product, the campaign goal, and the demographic target. With each campaign, the company collects data. After a while, it’s able to compare like campaigns — and with control group data — to measure success. Success, in her book, is generating incremental sales. Roehm was quick to acknowledge, however, she doesn’t have nearly the amount of data she’d like.

I found it heartening to hear so many people talking so intelligently about some of the biggest issues facing the industry. It can be a bit depressing to survey all of the obstacles: data overload, creative constraints, organizational stasis. But consumers aren’t stupid. They’re moving ahead, whether we’re with them or not. Will your brand, or your client’s brand, be far behind?

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