Isaac Asimov once said “The true genius of any plan lies as much in the execution as it does in the concept. “ The same can be said of Integrated Marketing. An Integrated Marketing program built solely on execution—meaning, simplistically, a multi-platform media buy for cost efficiencies sake—will save you money, but won’t accomplish much in business growth. Nor will a great idea not executed properly, not achieving significant scale and not motivating people to a specific action.
So, if Integrated Marketing is so important why don’t we see it every day? It seems that somewhere somehow we lost our way as an industry. Let’s take a step back in time to see when that happened and how we got to the state we are currently in. Marketing in the days before mass media was simple. Most businesses were local and there were few national brands. So a product got a strong following and word-of-mouth with an occasional newspaper ad worked. But after World War II mass media took over—first driven by magazines and radio. But barely a decade later, TV became affordable to a large segment of the population–and mass brands grew simultaneously in a symbiotic way. One could not have happened without the other. TV and Magazines helped introduce brands to new consumers and the advertising revenue generated by these brands funded the content that increased the appeal of mass media. And because there were fewer options the mass media flourished.
Advertising became the focus of most brand’s marketing budgets and TV became the favored medium. The advertising industry came up with a model of how to evaluate advertising—the famous six stage ARF Model—Vehicle Distribution, Vehicle Exposure, Advertising Exposure, Advertising Perception, Advertising Communication and Sales Response. We developed an advertising impression metric to plan, buy and track how we were doing. Advertising agencies restructured around this principle and created media planning and media buying disciplines whose goal was to aggregate audiences.
Since the 1980’s a lot has changed in media availability. Most homes have multiple TV’s, and access to more than 100 channels and the share of viewing has fragmented greatly. That’s just TV. Magazines, radio, newspapers had the same fragmentation and increased availability of options. Today, with internet/mobile access rivaling TV ownership, the world is different. The age-old ARF model doesn’t apply anymore because with digital media we can do so much more than we ever could before. We can customize messaging and create individualized communication pathways to drive purchases. Digital is not an advertising medium, per se. It is a marketing channel.
The sad truth is that today that ARF model still drives the advertising industry. Media is still planned and purchased at most agencies on an impression/GRP basis. We value ourselves as buyers on how well we do on a cost per thousand impressions basis. Media Researchers at most agencies are more concerned about methodology of tracking audiences than on developing tools and techniques to measure what really is important—product sales. We used to play a joke on new employees. On their first day we would show them a media plan and tell them it didn’t have enough W18-49 GRP’s. We’d then send them down to the supply room with a requisition form for a box of GRP’s. Well, the joke, it turns out, is on us for focusing for too long on a surrogate metric for evaluating ourselves. We are still trying to aggregate audiences. But it’s not just an agency problem. The entire marketing process is over-siloed. When marketers have a creative agency, a media agency, a PR firm, a promotional agency and a digital marketing partner engaged on the brand, often times from multiple holding companies, the challenge becomes one of bringing disparate voices into harmony. Getting everyone singing the same tune, and not seeking a solo performance that highlights their voice, their contribution in absence of everyone else. This is a base instinct we have in these situations, proving our worth and our value in a team environment.
Besides the inherent human desire to prove our individual worth is how we as agencies and media salespeople divide functional disciplines—TV sellers call on TV buyers who are responsible for delivering TV value, print sellers call on print buyers who are charged with delivering print value and the digital sellers call on digital buyers who have to deliver digital media value.
So in a world of silo-ed, or worse—quarantined, marketing partners how can one deliver both an idea and an execution? By chance? I doubt it. Sheer magnitude of media buying clout? Probably not. A great idea without the scale to impact the bottom line? Highly unlikely. Someone develops an idea and champions it, with contagious excitement and relentless single-minded focus on executing that idea with the potential consumer at the center of everything.
We are at a critical point in the media landscape. Old line media companies are struggling. Magazines titles are getting shut down. Newspapers are merging or getting shut down. Consolidation is happening all around us. But the news is not all bad. Magazine companies are becoming media companies and media companies are becoming marketing companies. The threat for agencies is the biggest one. If ad agencies do not reinvent themselves as marketing agencies then they will be disintermediated, dismissed from the process entirely. Historically the ad agency has been the lead partner to a marketer. In a world of long-tail marketing there is no “One” message for the masses. There are millions of messages each one speaking to an individual’s motivations.
So, here’s my clarion call to us as an industry. Here’s the three things we each need to do to re-focus our efforts on Integrated Marketing.
1. Stop thinking of marketing as a cost proposition and approach it as an investment. Stop the constant priority of evaluating your marketing efforts on cost alone. Sometimes good ideas cost more than bad ones. You should think about results and a return on investment. You should want talented and creative people working to build your business.
2. Engage all your marketing partners together frequently. Let them get to know each other. Make them work together. Encourage them to dialog and debate ideas without you as an intermediary. Make them collaborate and let them know that it’s “all for one and one for all”.
3. Make us accountable. Hold our feet to the fire. Make sure we deliver on our combined promise.
1. Stop thinking of yourself as a media vendor and an advertising placement property. So many of you have such rich content and strong relationships with consumers. Use it to your advantage. You are a marketing communications company.
2. Engage your marketing people in bigger ways than ‘added value’ programs that don’t add up to much. Put your marketing people, who know your customers better than you think, in front of the marketers and agencies. Number
3. Partner with like-minded properties inside your own company and outside as well. Find a partner that can enhance your offering and make you both a larger scale player than you can be alone. If you’re a special interest magazine company with marginal web assets find a cable TV network that you can partner with whether it’s an ad-hoc relationship or a longer-term strategic alliance. What do you have to lose? What do you have to gain?
1. Think like marketing agencies, not media buyers. We are uniquely situated to help collaborate, build and evaluate, but only if we allow ourselves. We need to re-insert ourselves at the highest levels and not be a vendor.
2. Don’t just keep buying more boxes of GRP’s. If we want to be treated as a marketing partner we need to behave like one. We need new metrics to prove what works. Get your research department to stop focusing on audience metrics and have them develop marketing metrics.
3. Treat the media companies as partners, they are not your enemy. If you want them to bring good ideas to you then treat them fairly and with respect. Listen to them and let them bring you ideas. Don’t make them fill out 100 page RFP’s asking them to answer questions that you won’t even evaluate.
Our collective business, the business of marketing brands, is built on our people, because that’s all we have. Our people and their ideas. If our people are willing to contribute to the greater good, then we all win. If someone champions an idea, is relentless in their pursuit of engaging their partners, and accepts nothing less than a team approach then there is nothing we can’t accomplish.