More Than Just A Line Item

How does online become more than just a line item on a flowchart?

To this day, if you ask marketers to show you an example of their media flowchart for the year, they will almost undoubtedly show you a page that has a single line item on it for either "digital" or "online." That's akin to having a line item for "advertising" -- and if you think about it, underneath that single line item is a host of tactics that will achieve your objectives while living out their lives in a sea of anonymity. Would you want your efforts to go so unrecognized?

But seriously, the line item for online should certainly be broken out and integrated into the overall mix. There is an element of online that speaks directly to every other format of media and that is how it should be integrated into the mix. From a strategic perspective, it provides for interaction and engagement that cannot be found anywhere else.

For example, if marketers were evaluating TV, why wouldn't they consider online video as a support vehicle for that effort? For marketers looking at print, contextual display is a strong vehicle to look at in competition or support. If you're a marketer focused on direct mail or direct response TV, then in digital your corresponding tactics might be CPA display, eCRM or behavioral targeting and retargeting. These tactics are all proven very effective -- in many cases, more cost-effective than their traditional counterparts, so they deserve to broken out as a separate line.



Of course, there are also allocations to search and mobile and other digital components that do not have an offline counterpart, but they still deserve to be broken out separately because they're all unique in their tactical role, and the outcome of each is different.

When you bunch all of these tactics together as a single line, item you make it harder to explain their role, and marketers will not see the value. Search, for example, is a year-round effort that immediately drives interested parties to your product. Search is not typically a flighted effort because it always works, no matter what time of year. When a user searches for a product or service and you aren't there, you create a missed opportunity for your brand that translates to your possibly being excluded from the consideration set. Conversely, your competitors who are spending in this area are now in consideration, where they may not have been before.

The biggest line item that should be broken out, outside of search, is social media. At this point I think it would be hard to find a marketer that doesn't realize the value of social media (though I'm quite certain you can find a whole bunch who are not yet engaged for fear of the "lack of control" in that space). Social media requires allocation of budgets that are not necessarily paid media; they may include earned value and the establishment of presence. These elements may not be something that all media planners are used to seeing, so they don't know where to put it. Does it go into production? Does it go into PR? Does it break out as its own line item? I would vote for the latter, personally. My feeling is that any element that can be explained on its own two feet should be broken out.

I know that creating a media recommendation in today's economy is far more difficult than it was in the days of "Mad Men," but that complexity shouldn't be hidden under a single line item on a flowchart. The complexity should be explained so everyone can understand what all of the components actually are and how they work together.

Are your flowcharts still breaking out a sole line item for "online"?

3 comments about "More Than Just A Line Item ".
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  1. Mark McLaughlin, March 31, 2010 at 11:42 a.m.

    If the digerati want their contributions to the ad campaign to be more than just a line item on the flowchart, they would be well served to embrace demo target GRPs and Reach/Frequency metrics.

  2. James Hering from The Richards Group, March 31, 2010 at 12:12 p.m.

    Fantastic idea!

    What brave marketer is willing to submit a "generic" flowchart to Cory (or the community) and let's create an ideal template?

    Perhaps Cory can post the best three suggested formats. Sometimes you have to show them how it's done.

    Now headed down the hall to see a Group Media Director...

  3. Richard Monihan, April 2, 2010 at 5:22 p.m.

    In our upfront presentation this year, we make the point that you achieve reach with TV, but you add value to it with engagement and environment by purchasing VOD and online Video. The multi-platform approach to purchase is clearly the correct way to buy video, and the fact that more agencies haven't discovered this is to their detriment.
    Too often, I have someone ask "well, aren't the people watching you on TV the same people watching you on VOD and online?" I typically respond as follows:
    "No. There may be some overlap, but common sense indicates this is unlikely and studies have shown it to not be true. HOWEVER, if we assume it IS true, we price our VOD and Online in such a manner that you can take advantage of this additional frequency and still get the benefits of the engagement and environment."

    Not everyone takes that approach to their VOD and online, as prices have yet to really come down significantly. Meanwhile, sellout levels remain very some point the issue of ROI MUST become the primary driving force to move advertisers away from the single line item you discuss. I hope that, in our Upfront presentation, we have begun to create that shift in thinking. It is imperative, if the advertising world is to move forward anytime soon, that we take a few steps back in some categories...

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