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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Integration Problems? Maybe the "Over the Hill" gang can help

There is a growing problem in advertising these days that virtually no one is talking about. It concerns the integration of conventional media for a company with elements in the digital arena and emerging media.

How much should an advertiser put in each bucket?  In the last few weeks since I have hung out my consultant shingle, I have asked this question and the answers have been stunning.  Some people say "we have a digital agency that handles new media and a traditional advertising agency placing conventional fare." Okay, but who decides how much goes where?  Answers include: shrugs, "we gave the digital shop 20% and may increase it next year", "if sales rise this year we will add to digital", to the honest "we just guessed at it."

Others keep all activity in an old line agency saying that their shop is developing a digital capability and will move from TV and radio when "the time is right."  

There appears to be a naive assumption as well that the one stop shopping approach will always yield an even handed analysis. No one argues that digital shops will recommend a plan that skews heavily toward new media and a conventional shop will dabble with digital but still keep the big bucks in the tried and true TV, cable, radio, magazine, and newspaper.  But within many shops, there is a silent battle going on. Can a 28 year old media planner stand up to his media director or the account's management rep and really recommend the right mix of elements for a plan for 2009 or beyond?  Does he or she really know enough about our emerging media world to make a truly informed recommendation?  Some will, some won't but many clients will suffer.

Some 20 years ago, I once had 9 clients operating in the arcane world of regional network television. The sales people at all the networks were excellent and provided good value to our clients who would have paid a huge premium compared to their competitors if they had to place all their dollars exclusively in spot markets.  Regional network helped level the playing field for a great deal of our client base for at least a portion of their buys. 

Over time I learned that some mega-shops never used regionals but continued to make huge spot purchases across many markets in addition to full national network TV buys. When I asked why, I was told that politically it was difficult within shops to sell in regionals. The spot buying directors did want to lose billing and the network buyers were not always interested in smaller buys even though they could help their clients save money.

Don't you think that the same thing is going on today?  Are some people continuing to load up on network TV, spot TV, radio, etc. at the expense of digital?  It is not all sinister. Some of it may just be human nature. Many people cling to their area of expertise; it is where their comfort zone resides.

Last week I finished a very thoughtful new book called Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott.  In it he provides guidelines for marketing pros.  His #3 recommendation was:

"Radically reduce advertising in broadcast media--most TV and much of radio and print advertising is a waste of time, energy, ink, and money.  Move "Marketing Communications Spending" to digital media."

Well. While I agree directionally with his comments, individual analysis is definitely required.
Some plans should be 60% digital, others 15% at this point in time.

Where can one go for help?  May I suggest the following?  In the last five years as TV continued to weaken and newspapers absolutely cratered, I would asked media executives and agency types what to do in our brave new world of media. Almost all were defensive and fought vigorously to defend their media property or what they were recommending to their clients. But, a half dozen or so were brutally candid. Some TV executives actually told me the salad days were long over and that they were glad that they were not 25 again and starting out in the business. A few agency media pros said their CEO's "did not get it" as they pushed for more TV.

Interestingly, there was a common thread among this handful of men and women who hopped aboard a media version of the straight talk express. They ranged in age from 58-62 years old, were about to leave the business, and all were fairly well off but not fabulously rich.

These might be just the people to help you sort out how much goes to each discipline. They have nothing to prove to anyone, they are not empire building, and they would like but not need your money.  Candor comes naturally as they have no fear.

Caution--avoid those who talk constantly of the good old days or those that say they have "relationships" with the media and can work things out. They are telling old war stories because they have not stayed current.

There are some good graybeards out there. They have watched the erosion of the conventional forms of media in recent years and are stunned at how the pace of disintegration is picking up. If you can find the right one, embrace him or her. They can save you a great deal of money and lead you in to the next era.

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