Media for the Masses
25 October 2006 Dominic Proctor
Companies must recognise that the media landscape is changing and they can no longer target a mass audience. A new strategy for the multi-channel age is crucial for future success, but an integrated strategy means change on many fronts.
The number of television and radio channels available to the consumer is growing day by day, as is the use of internet and mobile technologies. As the twists in the media maze become more numerous and more complex, the challenge is to deliver the right message to the right audience in a form that uses the capabilities of each channel to the full.
Obviously, this is easier said than done, and some fear this more complex media environment. Others, however, see the transition as ripe with opportunity for those willing to change their marketing mindset.
"There is more choice out there, with more media channels cropping up all the time," says Dominic Proctor, CEO of Mindshare Worldwide. "So, clients need to look at integrated solutions. The market is fragmented, but instead of worrying, people should take advantage. There is no mass audience now, but you can track your audience and target it more cleverly."
Proctor was the head of Mindshare when it launched in 1997, having brought together the media investment divisions of Ogilvy & Mather and J Walter Thompson's. In 2000, Mindshare became the world's largest media research, planning and buying company. As Proctor sees it, the new media landscape is taking shape and companies must adopt a new strategy to cope with it.
As well as companies rethinking the importance of marketing, there is also a need for media investment agencies to go beyond their traditional role, and advise clients more on strategy, in collaboration with other agencies involved in a campaign.
The kind of integrated marketing strategy required for today's world not only means having a coherent plan to accommodate all media channels, but also requires a fresh look at a company's whole approach to the marketing function.
NEW AGE, NEW APPROACH
The internet forces firms into fresh thinking about how to develop brands and market products and services. Investment in online advertising has grown rapidly, but the medium has a long way to go to deliver its full potential.
"The internet is a work in progress," observes Proctor. "The dollars follow people's eyeballs, so there is tremendous growth in online marketing, but it still lags behind the development of the web and there needs to be more creativity. Money is moving off primetime and accelerating towards the web and new channels."
Digital media have an advantage over traditional channels in that they are easy to track and monitor. The return on spend is relatively easy to identify. Their role in an integrated marketing strategy is likely to continue to grow. They also help crystallise the need to develop content specific to each channel.
"The characteristics of each channel are well understood, but the trick is to allow enough time to develop a marketing strategy for each medium," notes Proctor. "Campaigns go wrong when there is not enough time spent on developing a separate creative message for each. Audiences are very savvy about marketing and media."
Developing channel-specific content and coordinating an appropriate media buying strategy requires firms to give more status to the marketing function, according to Proctor, who feels the absence of marketing directors from the board is a notable problem.
"Some companies still do not treat marketing with the respect that it deserves," Remarks Proctor. "Marketing people are often more like project managers. They leave companies relatively quickly after a project is completed, so in the long term the brand is not their concern. Often the head of marketing is not on the board."
"Marketing needs to relaunch itself as a discipline," he adds.
AGENCIES MUST ALSO ADAPT
Brands require nurturing and short-termism can weaken them. Too often, the long-term marketing relationships firms have are with their agencies rather than the marketing director. As their role evolves, Proctor believes these agencies need to cooperate more.
When considering an integrated marketing strategy, this cooperation is just as important as the internal implementation of multichannel policies by client companies.
"Specialist agencies are emerging, which is fine, but there is a greater onus on us to collaborate," believes Proctor. "It is a competitive market, but there needs to be a close relationship between the agencies on the team. This is particularly true because media investment agencies like ours, which were once mainly executional, are now much more strategic."
This role in strategy is partly the result of a new paradigm for the development of advertising, which in turn stems from the fragmentation of the media environment and the proliferation of channels.
Previously, the creative work took priority in the development of a marketing campaign. Subsequently, the blend of distribution channels was developed to fit this content. Now that content must adapt to exploit the unique capabilities of each channel, the media buying plan is a much more important element of the overall campaign.
"The medium is as important as the message," adds Proctor. "Companies need to spend more time on media planning, so they need to develop that strategy as early as possible in the process."
Ultimately, a company's success in developing an integrated marketing strategy depends on its ability to win battles on many fronts.
It must develop a coherent response to the more complex media landscape by understanding the various media, setting clear goals, finding the right agency partners and bringing together the many elements of the marketing process together, so they can inform and influence each other.
Those firms who can elevate the marketing function to a strategic level and who have the courage to approach the media maze with optimism could steal a march on more tentative competitors.