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Despite New Approaches, Traditional Media Prevail

Aug 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The new rage in media planning was supposed to be something called “media neutrality,” an approach that would free agencies from thinking about ad campaigns in terms of the traditional mass media they’ve long been known to favor and move things in a direction of a total communications mix that might include nontraditional media or other marketing services such as promotion, direct marketing and public relations. It’s been the mantra of most leading-edge shops, especially those that sell themselves as having a strategic approach to media planning.
They’ve even invented a lexicon to describe this new approach, substituting the very word “media” with phrases such as “consumer contacts”-the idea being that anything coming in contact with a consumer was a potential brand medium.
Recently, the big shops have stepped up the game, creating new strategic planning positions and hiring senior executives with consumer account planning backgrounds and who could think beyond traditional media boxes. Just last week mega-shop Starcom MediaVest Group announced the hiring of five so-called “context planners,” while Universal McCann recently hired a “creative director” and a “channel account planner” to work in its “communications architecture” group.
That development was supposed to give pause to the traditional media. The thinking was they would fear that these new approaches might mean more dollars shifting out of traditional media such as television and into new and nontraditional media, or into marketing services.
But if the latest findings from a respected media industry report are any indication, that has yet to happen and is not likely to for the foreseeable future. In fact, the just-released 2003 edition of Veronis Suhler Stevenson’s Communications Industry Forecast shows scant erosion in traditional advertising’s share of marketing budgets and hardly any growth in other forms of marketing spending. And as far as Veronis can see, advertising won’t be losing any more share.
While there are slight ebbs and flows over the 11-year period analyzed in the current edition, the Veronis report predicts that traditional advertising will enjoy a 56.3 percent share of marketing budgets in the year 2007, a modest increase over the 56.2 percent it had in 1997, the report’s base year.
As VSS calls it, both segments expanded at about the same robust rates during the build-up of the late 1990s, crashed at about the same levels when the bubble burst and are expanding at about the same rates of recovery.
“Overall, we project spending on advertising, marketing services and specialty media will advance 4.5 percent to $319.4 billion in 2003, sparked primarily by the marketing services and specialty media segment,” estimates the report, which goes on to project a compound annual growth rate of 6.1 percent for the 2002-07 period.
Thanks, But No Thanks
If accurate, the Veronis outlook suggests that despite the hype of communications planners, Madison Avenue will experience status quo in terms of the communications mix.
Could it be that Veronis has grossly underestimated the impact of media-neutral planning? At least one top media agency executive doesn’t think so, telling TelevisionWeek, “We’re doing all the right things. We’re saying all the right things. And we’re moving in this direction, but maybe the issue isn’t with the media agencies. Maybe it’s our clients. When all is said and done, they say, `Thank you, it’s very interesting, but give us TV and magazines.’ For this change to work, it’s got to come from the marketers themselves.”
Whether that ultimately transpires is anyone’s guess. While advertisers have grown somewhat disgruntled, even irate, over the use of certain traditional media-especially the rapidly inflating costs of network TV-in the end they seem loath to take a risk on tinkering with the traditional media mix.