Something fell in the media forest about a month ago. More than 500 people heard it, but the impact will affect thousands of marketing professionals and billions of ad dollars.
What fell was the wall of media planning silos—walls that have historically separated TV from print, from the Internet—a defensive wall that each medium has used in the past to protect its turf and its budget. On April 10, under the banner of the "CrossMedia Forum: Night of the Media Heavyweights—Round 3," the heads of many media trade associations representing magazines, Internet, outdoor, radio, direct marketing, cable TV, broadcast TV and newspapers spoke not just about their respective strengths, but also of how important it is to integrate with others, especially the Internet. Each medium prepared responses as to why theirs should be included in the media mix for two "mock" campaign briefs that were presented by Kenneth Romanzi, svp and COO, domestic for Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., and Bill Sidwell, director, global brand strategy and management for Hewlett-Packard.
"It's funny. Three years ago, I was the only guy up here talking about the Internet. Now, I notice that a lot of people are talking about the Internet, which is a good thing," said Greg Stuart, president of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
Stop right there: That level of media "kumbaya" is still an important milestone in this industry, especially when it comes from the people paid to advocate the strengths of one medium.
This is an evolution from Round 1 of the "Night of the Media Heavyweights," a concept hatched three years ago by market research company Dynamic Logic that now serves as an unofficial cross-media integration milestone marker.
Round 3 showed us how much things have changed for the Internet as well as the notion of consumer control. In fact, one might argue that the Internet is already a cross-media platform in that it represents a digital firewall for consumers to let marketing messages in, but also to keep them out. Media brands that once belonged to one platform must now work across many platforms, and use their brands to be filters for consumers who rely on them more for their judgment than for their delivery. As Esther Dyson wrote in online quarterly report Release 1.0's "Erosion of Power: Users in Charge": "Do we really want to be making choices … every moment of the day? ... Isn't it simpler just to leave the driving to someone else?"
Whereas in Round 1, the various media were politely cooperative, in Round 3, we saw a high level of cooperation and mutual appreciation. Instead of fighting for budget position, they were complementing each other and selling with, not against, other media (granted, it was a "CrossMedia" event). They may even need to start collapsing their research efforts, as suggested by Jim Nail, a longtime industry analyst and now chief marketing officer of Cymfony: "Perhaps a grand coalition of all the associations represented on the stage would fund a comprehensive study of consumers' multimedia habits."
The terms used by the media trade representatives to describe themselves showed a blurring of media lines. In his blog, Millward Brown's Nigel Hollis rightly points out that Ellen Oppenheim, evp and chief marketing officer of the Magazine Publishers of America, referred to magazines as an "on-demand medium." This concept may go beyond paper, as Hollis later references an MIT Media Lab "fish wrap" project that aims to create a flexible computer screen that can be held like a newspaper or magazine but has digitally generated content.
Even ABC Television Network's Mike Shaw, who represented broadcast TV—the "800 pound media gorilla"—emphasized the importance of cross-media planning. While it surprised many in the audience, ABC's parent company, Walt Disney, had already announced plans to revamp its Web site with a broadband theater section, in which select shows, along with ads, can be watched via the Internet. This represents "a sharp turnaround at Disney's TV unit," according to The Wall Street Journal's Brooks Barnes.
No longer do they claim that their medium can do the job alone. The consumer is too elusive, and no one medium has the commanding reach and control it once had. In fact, Ocean Spray's Romanzi, whose company was one of the featured advertisers of the event, suggested broadening the discussion to non-media platforms, such as traveling events, in-store media and PR. The stage could get very crowded very quickly if we add Wal-Mart TV, Verizon, TiVo or other forms of emerging media.
Which brings us to another point underscored by Round 3: Why does the stage need to get wider? Because everyone acknowledges that media planning in silos no longer cuts it, and you need to consider multiple touchpoints; and it's necessary to handle more digital platforms that enable consumer control. But if we widen the stage and add more touchpoints, including non-media ones, you could easily have more than 100 people on stage talking about how they can reach the elusive consumer. Not only would that be a difficult event to manage, it would be tough to be a marketer trying to make decisions like this every day.
So, part of the challenge is figuring out how wide to go. And when you go wider with more touchpoints, how do you extend measurement so planning and assessing ROI doesn't become mind-bogglingly difficult?
Round 3 audience polling showed its "No. 1 cross-media wish" is better cross-media measurement and research metrics. Don't worry—with this in mind, Dynamic Logic and Millward Brown will start working on Round 4 soon.