Commentary

Does Your Media Plan Have AWD?

The next new, hot media channel is ... the automobile? That's right! Visit your local car dealership and test-drive almost any new vehicle. You may become enamored with:

a. the drive (maybe)

b. the fuel economy (probably)

c. the media center (most definitely)

Many new car models today are true media epicenters with portals for laptops, smartphone-enabled screens, radio on steroids (Pandora, Hi-Def, and Satellite) and even televisions (Chrysler/Flow TV). What does this mean for marketers? The automobile will change the way we think about a brand's media strategy on multiple levels:

The New Hub: The only place where computers/radios/televisions/smart screens all collectively reside is in the home ... until, now. The automobile is truly becoming a multi-media phenomenon. Any medium that was reserved for in-home consumption can now be experienced in cars. We now have mobile media epicenters, where multiple message formats can all converge in a single location, on the go.

Improved Proximity: All of a sudden message salience is as close as a store's parking lot. Granted, outdoor and radio were already capable of delivering such proximity. And, smartphone technology/geo-tagging takes proximity to a heightened level. But, imagine picking up the living room (and every media device in it) and shifting it to a parking lot. All of a sudden, proximity takes on a whole new meaning. We can place messages along the purchase funnel much more effectively when the automobile takes us directly to the point of purchase. We are much closer to filling the gap between in-store and out-of-store marketing.

Everything is Mobile: Historically, mobile media were reserved for such devices that could be unplugged and personally ported to various locations (think mobile phone). Now, the plugs are mobile. Any medium is now a mobile medium when it resides in a car.

How do we integrate this new media phenomenon into our media plans? Should the automobile become a holistic media channel? According to Advertising Age, "Ford could be the next media company." Unfortunately, the "business" of our business isn't structured to capitalize on these emerging phenomena easily.

I can make a case that the auto is an emerging channel that requires dedicated expertise. I can also make the case that mobile media experts are well equipped to deal with the opportunity. Or, maybe it doesn't matter where the device resides: home or car.

Let's start with the planners: account planners, context planners, channel planners ... whatever you like to call them. Planners are used to asking where/when/how questions. The automobile as media hub will offer a whole new perspective on what is truly contextually relevant.

The most fundamental next step in understanding the potential of the automobile as a media channel is to understand how this hyper-mobile experience will affect the context and influence of our messages as we move closer to the point of purchase.

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