In the end, it seems there is no simple solution, and that the approach varies by agency organization and by the clients and brands they represent. The process will likely continue to evolve as the marketplace matures, and as new systems, tools and resources grow with it. But one of the more interesting approaches has come out of the team at Havas, including a collaboration between MPG's planning group, and the fledgling Chrysalis unit, for client Schering-Plough.
The initiative is one of the best examples I've come across of an agency building a highly targeted digital out-of-home media plan from scratch, using an intriguing "shoot-out" approach by organizing its own little mini "upfront" in which some leading digital out-of-home players simultaneously pitched to get on the plan.
The initiative was the brainchild of MPG's Schering-Plough planning director Sean Smith and the agency's director of televisual applications Mitch Oscar, with a strong assist from the new Chrysalis team, which invited 26 digital out-of-home companies to come to MPG's offices in Lower Manhattan and each provide a 10-minute presentation.
"It was like speed-dating," recalls MPG's Oscar, adding that each pitch was customized to Schering-Plough's planning goals, and each venue would "deliver on connecting the consumer with the brand."
The event took place only days after the official launch of Chrysalis, a joint venture of Havas and the management team that created it, including its CEO Connie Garrido, who is a veteran of digital out-of-home units at WPP, Publicis and other agencies.
Garrido actually doesn't like the term digital out-of-home, because she considers it too limiting, since many of the campaigns Chrysalis works on might fall more into the category of "experiential" media, or even mobile, branded entertainment, or sponsorships.
"We didn't want to just create another out-of-home buying shop," says Garrido. "We wanted to be about strategy." Chrysalis' strategy emanates from what Garrido calls "touchpoint communications planning," which is a fancy phrase for planning an advertising campaign to reach consumers at different lifestyle points.
"Consumer behavior is matched to brand behavior at these specific points," she says, adding that Chrysalis may be seen as an out-of-home media services agency, but it's really "media-agnostic."
Not surprisingly, it brought that agnosticism to the Schering-Plough planning process, and simply let each vendor come in and make their best pitch for being relevant to the pharma marketer's brands.
The speed-dating process began with 26 digital out-of-home vendors pitching the value of their venues for Schering-Plough's brands. That group was then whittled down to a list of 14 that got to participate in a formal RFP (request for proposal) process to make sure that each met the brand parameters, which were based on "three Rs:" reach, relevancy, and receptivity.
All 14 networks made the final buy, which was divided among four Schering-Plough brands that would get schedules of two months each, beginning with Claritin in April.
The buy included some of the major digital out-of-home players, including companies such as Access 360, Indoor Direct, Danoo, Ideacast, and Zoom. Garrido says the initial results look promising. That's a good thing, because the digital out-of-home buy is on the radar of the highest levels of Schering-Plough's corporate management. Chairman-CEO Fred Hassan literally reviewed it.