Cross Platform Deals — The Price Is Right?

ORLANDO, FL. — The future of cross-platform deals will hinge on value rather than price, new ways to measure the effectiveness of such multi-element media programs, and the emergence of “champions” to unite buyers and sellers behind cross-media ideas, according to panelists who debated the merits of cross-platform deals this morning at the American Association of Advertising Agencies ninth annual Media Conference.

“Price is the driving force behind these deals, and that’s not always the best thing for the client,” said David Martin, president and CEO of Omnicom’s PentaCom, Troy, Michigan. “When someone wants to take $250 million out of a client’s budget, the deal had better fit well. Too often, the deals don’t make sense. So many deals turn out to be fluff.”

Speaking on a panel that included Renetta McCann, CEO of Bcom3’s Starcom North America, Myer Berlow, president of AOL Time Warner’s global marketing solutions group, and Edward Ernhardt, president of ESPN ABC Sports, Martin added that he senses a hesitancy about focusing too much advertising on the web when considering a cross media deal. That notion, and the emphasis on pricing, was disputed by the other panelists.

“The definition of a fool is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing,” Berlow said. “The agencies and the clients and the media companies have got to get together and create those things that make them stronger as a team than they would be separated by their various parts.”

Siding with Berlow, McCann said, “I’m not sure that price is the driving force, but you’ve got to get it right. You can’t go out and spend stupidly. In the future, price is not going to be the number one goal because, you know what? We can get that now. The big agencies have gotten really good at the price.”

According to Ernhardt, a marketing individual with foresight is needed to shepherd deals through the light of day. He mentioned a recent cross-media program for Discover Card revolving around ESPN college sports broadcasts that was created by the client who then presented it to ESPN and Discover’s agency, Starcom, as a rare example of someone taking the lead. “Where are the champions?” Ernhardt asked the audience.

Another problem hindering cross platform deals is that the term is “ill-defined,” McCann said. “once people are able to define it better, allocate resources to it, can really be a source of competitive advantage in the future, a way to connect clients better with consumers,” she said.

The issue of identifying the effectiveness of cross platform deals is also difficult to nail down, McCann said. Buyers and sellers cannot just measure ratings and look to hit quantitative targets like GRPs, but “pre and post measurements of consumer attitudes and behaviors” are going to have to become part of the mix.