This Summer, It Started to Come Together

Aside from way too hot, what kind of summer has it been? I’ve been reviewing the news of the past few weeks, and the evidence is pretty convincing: it’s been a season of online/offline fusion.

By “fusion,” I mean not just integration but something more. Across media and across channels, the trend is “don’t do this without that.” A chip in your Nikes that communicates with your iPod is but one example of a movement that’s encompassing advertising, marketing, and media and bridging the gap between online and off- in new ways.

The Web Watches TV

The networks may recently have experienced the worst week of viewership in their history, but Web advertisers and properties weren’t missing from the audience. Planning a Web campaign? Create awareness for it — with TV spots. That’s what some heavy-hitting brand advertisers are currently doing. Toyota launched a broadcast and cable TV campaign to drive viewers to a new made-for-mobile video series on mobile phones. It will be followed by an online campaign, but later.

What happens when Webisodes take off? Perhaps they’ll follow the lead of Evan and Gareth, two characters from Unilever’s Axe deodorant Webisodes. The duo just landed themselves a cable TV contract. One of the producers is Reveille, a reality TV production company.

MSN, meanwhile, is bringing original reality programming online with that same partner. The first in a series from its new venture, MSN Originals, was just announced. “Fan Club: Reality Baseball” will let viewers vote on management decisions for a real professional minor-league baseball team.

Finally, Foster’s Lager just decided to eschew TV completely. Instead, its U.S. ad budget is going online. Fosters plans to launch a campaign on under the slogan, “Because TV sucks.” Well, at least that means it’s paying attention to it. “We probably should have done it a few years ago,” a company executive told “The Wall Street Journal.” “The amount of presence you can get on TV for your money just isn’t enough.”

TV Watches the Web

Broadcast executives, meanwhile, are watching the Web more closely than ever. And why shouldn’t they? Online video is exploding. We’ve extensively discussed CBS’ innertube and My ABC, so let’s take a look at the peacock network.

NBC made a rapid about-face from taking legal action against YouTube for copyright infringement to making a deal with the site to promote its fall programming. A few days later, there were rumors the broadcaster was on the verge of acquiring

The network did announceTV 360, an online initiative that will include a broadband comedy network, previews of TV episodes, and standalone content from its prime time, late night, and daytime shows. Parent NBC Universal tied all its broadcast and cable holdings together with a unified Flash-based video player to facilitate ad buys.

“The future of television is slowly being defined online,” said In-Stat analyst Gerry Kaufhold of a report the company released earlier this week. “Traditional broadcast TV networks are finally figuring out they need to capitalize on ‘all this personalization stuff’ or they will have deep trouble ahead.”

Offline Goes Online

Other offline media are figuring this out, too, perhaps none more so than the “International Herald Tribune.” The NYT Company’s property just launched dynamically generated, personalized news podcasts. And in recent weeks, Sony BMG launched musicbox video, an ad-supported music video channel with viral and pass-along features, while Time Out New York this week introduced a broadband channel that complements its existing on-demand cable TV offering.

The trend extends beyond just media properties. The real estate industry is rushing to get itself online. Spending in that sector is expected to nearly double by 2010. Just the other day, I received a snail-mail postcard from a local Realtor announcing a new company blog.

And where the money flows, so goes the talent. Expect more defections like Jeff Bell’s. The former DaimlerChrysler marketing VP headed out to Redmond this summer to work on Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business.

Metrics and Targeting

Even the more sober disciplines of metrics and targeting aren’t immune from fusion this sizzling summer. Y&R’s direct arm, Wunderman, snapped up digital metrics agency Zaaz. And rather than join the handwringing over DVRs, BMW is gamely giving TiVo’s interactive ad features a go by being the first advertiser to embed tags into relevant programming.

Even staid, old Walgreens made a cutting-edge move. Its store circulars will appear in geotargeted, dynamic ads.

And on the executive front, two Nielsen VPs made a telling move. They left to found Gameasure, an in-game ad ratings system to verify reach and demographic characteristics for video game buys.

Some of this stuff will work, and, inevitably, some of it won’t. Nevertheless, it’s all good. What we’re seeing is a clear signal interactive has come into its own as an integral component of any and all marketing efforts.

Meet Rebecca at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, August 7-10, 2006, at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

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