Engaging Consumers Outside of TV

Mar 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Media planners are looking hard beyond television to get their clients’ messages out and jumping with both feet into what one planner calls “an era of visual engagement.”

That was the consensus among senior media and research executives who last week discussed how to sort through media choices and what is considered “total communications planning” in the advertising industry during a media planning conference in New York hosted by TelevisionWeek. The event was sponsored by ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales and SíTV.

More than 250 people turned up on a snowy day to attend the conference, which consisted of two panel discussions-the first dedicated to communication planning and the second geared toward the search for return on investment in media spending.

One question often raised about communications planning is its effect on the use of commercial TV and the ability of some marketers to move beyond the traditional 30-second spot.

“The question somewhat assumes that you start with TV and [that] strategically it’s in the equation in every case, which is not necessarily true,” said Margaret Lewis, managing partner and director of communications planning at Mediaedge:cia and a member of the first panel.

“We know that consumers spend a tremendous amount of time watching television, no matter how busy they say they are in their lives,” Ms. Lewis said. “But the way I’m thinking about it more and more, it’s beyond media. Beyond TV is step one, but it’s half a step. The real first big step is beyond media, meaning beyond traditional off-line media.”

She said those options include direct response, sports marketing and entertainment marketing. “Our goal, and what we think is really the most strategically sound way to approach a client’s problems, is to look at all communications touch points beyond advertising touch points to have a holistic strategy and to have a unified strategy across all touch points way beyond advertising,” she said. “That’s the lofty goal that we have for a lot of our clients and it’s a goal that they absolutely endorse, so it’s where we’re headed.”

Another panelist, Esther Franklin, senior VP and director of consumer contact planning at Starcom Worldwide, said looking beyond television takes her to what she called an era of visual engagement.

“We believe viewers are fascinated by what they see visually on video screens and they will continue to be fascinated by those types of things,” she said. “While right now they are primarily constrained to the television sets that we have in our homes, in our living rooms [and] in our dens, our philosophy [is that] the era of digital engagement extends to video played outside the home.”

She said finding appropriate creative for those new video environments is a challenge, as is measuring its impact on consumers.

Brad Adgate, senior VP and director of research at Horizon Media, agreed that television appears to be moving out of the home, which will make measurement even more complicated.

“In the future, usage won’t mean anything, share won’t mean anything; I don’t think a household rating will mean anything,” he said. “Outside of live events, you’re going to watch anything you want at any time. I think weblogs are going to be channels in the near future with digital convergence, and really I think Nielsen is going to have to partner with some of these cable operators to get ahold of these digital platforms.”

Mr. Adgate said he sees the personal people meters being developed by VNU and Arbitron as a step toward finding a solution to tracking video viewership on emerging platforms. But overall, he said, the gap between what the data agencies need and what the syndicated research companies are delivering is widening.

He added that he expects to see a number of research companies in the next few years make attempts “to get their arms around how to measure out-of-home television viewing and all of these other multiple touch points.”

“It would be great if it was single-source,” he said.

Versatile Creative

Beyond research, another challenge is coming up with creative that works on media other than traditional TV.

“Clients are concerned about that,” Ms. Lewis said. “Although they’ve never had great copy-testing resources for anything except television … I guess if you expand into more and more additional areas of delivering the message, maybe that becomes more and more challenging.”

Ms. Franklin said media agencies and creative agencies have to work together to make new marketing initiatives work.

“Wherever it is possible we are aligning ourselves with our creative counterparts to go into one single planning process,” she said. “What we try to accomplish in that critical partnership is to develop that strategic brand idea that we can all activate against.”

Erwin Ephron, a partner in Ephron, Papazian & Ephron, moderated the panel on ROI and quickly turned the discussion to a look at which planning strategies appear to be working.

That immediately raised the issue of just how to define whether something works.

Panelist Ronnie Beason, group client director at Carat USA, said in integrated marketing, or anything the company works on, two sets of priorities determine success. “One is the client, who says I need proof that what I just spent millions of dollars on is working, not in awareness, not in changing attitudes, but did it sell more product?” Ms. Beason said.

“On the other end, there’s the research that goes on agency-side, the vendors, the market modeling company and also on the creative side, trying to justify what is it that the consumers are seeing, what are they responding to, how did this ad work versus that ad. And that’s a very hard thing to do because the two entities don’t necessarily meet in the middle,” she said.

“The thing about ROI is we need to continue in spirit to challenge ourselves to evaluate things as we go through, to learn, to not be afraid to take risks to try to make them as calculated as possible because we have a responsibility to our clients, but to try to forge forward to help them learn,” said Nadine McHugh, senior partner and strategic planning director at MindShare.

Rob Jayson, senior VP and director of corporate strategic resources at Initiative USA, warned, “There’s no point in understanding what we are buying and narrowing that down to a cost without understanding why it’s working, looking at the heritage of each of the media and communication roles that it takes, and exactly what it’s doing for the consumer.”

“Instead of using modeling and looking backward, we’re going to try to understand what our brands are trying to achieve,” he said.

Then one must figure out “how much of that driver can we affect using media using communications? Is it experiential media? Is it TV? Is it the Internet?” he said. “So ROI really has to be set in the context of what consumer actions you need people to take. Not in terms of is it a CPM or a simple kind of measurement of whether it’s paying out in the short term. It has to be a long-term view of brand value.”

But Alan Rovitsky, senior VP and director of strategic insights at MediaCom, warned that it’s hard to shake the focus on the short term and CPMs.

“Planners are doing all sorts of great stuff, but when it gets to the buyers, they’re judged on how they deliver their CPMs, and one of my roles is to try to bridge that gap and make sure that buyers have the tools and wherewithal to try to come closer to the real planning goals.”