Pros, cons weighed on cross-platform

Nov 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Did she really say it, and what did Donna Speciale really mean by that pungently contrarian remark about cross-platform advertising?
Ms. Speciale, executive VP and director of national and local broadcast, MediaCom, took the opportunity of the International Radio & Television Society Foundation’s panel discussion on cross-platform media opportunities, held last week at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, to correct the record and to clear the air.
“Let me just state for the record, I did call cross-platform horseshit,” said Ms. Speciale, who is every bit as outspoken as her MediaCom colleague Jon Mandel, a prominent agency executive well known for his plainspoken and often profane approach to Madison Avenue’s most sacred cows. “But it was kind of taken a little bit out of context.”
The proper context is this: “The buzz is a little bit more than what is really happening,” Ms. Speciale said. “I believe in cross-platform. I definitely think there’s a place for it in what we do. I just feel like it’s being hyped right now.”
The terminology of cross-platform is “being misused,” Ms. Speciale added. “We just have to use a different terminology for these volume deals that are happening with the OMDs and the P&Gs.”
Also on the IRTS panel were Michael Kelly, president, global marketing solutions, AOL Time Warner; Lisa McCarthy, executive VP, Viacom Plus; Tim Spengler, executive VP and director of national broadcast, Initiative Media North America; Bonita LeFlore, executive VP and director, local broadcast, Zenith Media; and Lori Wellinghoff, senior VP, Clear Channel Advantage.
“I don’t believe that ABC Unlimited and Viacom Plus and AOL [Global Marketing Solutions] have been formed because they just want to package all their assets to go be cheaper,” Ms. Speciale said. “I know for a fact that is not the reason [Viacom President and Chief Operating Officer] Mel Karmazin put all his assets together, because that is not what he is all about.”
Viacom Plus contributes approximately $1 billion to the $12.5 billion in ad sales at Viacom, said Ms. McCarthy, who heads the cross-platform unit. One day after the panel concluded, Ms. McCarthy was promoted from senior VP to executive VP and Viacom Plus Regional Solutions was added to her area of oversight. VPRS offers integrated media programs for clients using Infinity Radio, Viacom Outdoor and Viacom’s 39 owned-and-operated CBS and UPN local television stations.
Generally, the pricing for cross-platform deals is “consistent with what that advertiser would get if they went to go buy it piecemeal,” Ms. McCarthy said, “but the value that we’re bringing is greater.”
The keys are volume and share, Ms. McCarthy said, though “share” is not a word she would use around the office. “Mel doesn’t even like to use the word `share,”’ she said. “We get more money. In every single deal we’ve done we’ve gotten more volume.”
A number of the panelists agreed that the wrong kind of press attention is being paid to gigantic cross-platform deals and that cross-platform, without being labeled as such, is not a new phenomenon.
“This new buzz … is very interesting because we’ve all been doing this for some time,” said Zenith’s Ms. LeFlore. “At the end of the day, wouldn’t it be better just to buy another national television spot” than to spend money on the “bells and whistles” of a cross-platform deal? Each piece of a cross-platform deal has to stand on its own when it comes to pricing and justify the return on investment, she said.
When it comes to cross-platform, the “idea is the differentiator,” said AOL TW’s Mr. Kelly, who also noted that AOL Time Warner has approximately 3,000 people in the marketplace “every day” selling its brands. Media companies can’t simply approach agencies and advertisers with the “crap” they can’t sell elsewhere and offer to put it in a cross-platform deal, he said.
One reason more cross-platform deals haven’t been done is that “marketing services groups within clients in the last 10 years have been slashed … incredibly,” said Initiative’s Mr. Spengler. “It’s incumbent on us … at the outset to demonstrate what the clear advantage is for clients before we ask them to commit all this time and all the resources of their company at a grass-roots level.”
While several panelists agreed that cross-platform deals are highly complex and time-consuming, Clear Channel’s Ms. Wellinghoff demurred. “I don’t think cross-platform made it more complicated, I think consumers made it more complicated,” she said. “It’s just not as easy to do this anymore, and I’m thinking that cross-platform, or whatever you want to call it, is making it as simple as it can be … when you have a consumer who’s active, distracted, jaded, diverse.”
Ms. Speciale’s opinion of cross-platform hype notwithstanding, MediaCom is “into it” and “completely set up for it,” she said. “These ideas have to be a partnership, yes, between the companies, but also between buying and planning” in the agency, Ms. Speciale said.
And what did Mr. Mandel, her outspoken colleague, think of her outspoken remark? He called her “Mini Me,” Ms. Speciale said with a laugh.