Commentary: Media for a New World

  • by October 22, 2002

Cross-media, integrated media, or whatever nom du jour you want to use continues to be the Holy Grail in the media industry. In short, all agree that the value is rooted in the synergistic marketing premise that effectively bundled media properties can deliver a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Translate that into the numbers and dynamics of the marketplace and it means that somehow 1+1=3.

The lack of effective selling and buying of that equation is the reason cross-media deals continue to languish and falter. And that is because our industry has not done the basic re-engineering necessary to embrace that thinking and implement it. Both sides, the sell side and the buy side, are guilty of not restructuring their businesses to test this concept and, if it is viable, enable it to maximize a client's dollars.

The sales side has fallen short by not challenging itself enough on how to quantify the 1+1=3 equation and then training its people to intelligently sell that across media (TV, print, Internet, etc.) and agency disciplines. The buy side has fallen short by not providing effective access (read: point persons) whose mandate it is to embrace and evaluate such opportunities in a streamlined and cohesive manner. More often than not the cross-media buy sits with the media group that is evaluating the dominant media portion of the cross-media package. For the most part that group uses its particular metrics to evaluate the buy and decide whether it's bought or not.

Media strategy usually works best when driven by the client and agency first. So let's try a basic restructure on both sides to facilitate this. Here’s an idea: Borrow the account-planning model that has served the client/agency relationship for years. The agency designates an account and media person (individual teams) to handle, let's say, the five largest media conglomerates that they do business with. They become the in-house experts on that particular media company and spend time developing relationships and understanding the respective divisions. In turn, they become the first point of contact for the client and the respective media company. The sell side should also designate similar account teams. Yes, I know they currently exist, but often they are really just corporate sales teams that are not properly trained to sell across media. That service, let’s say, the five largest agencies that are actively engaging their company and exploring various cross-media deals.

Another stumbling block is the occasional friction that occurs on both sides between the various media/content divisions on the sell side and their respective counterparts on the client/agency side. The core issue: balancing the larger company-wide goals to grow both revenue and market share versus the individual P&L responsibilities of the various division heads. Specifically, on the sell side there is often forced discounting and/or profit erosion inherent in cross-media deals in exchange for market share increases. This undermines the fundamental equation on which integrated media is built. And this happens to be a particularly sensitive issue as both sides must demonstrate solid ROI for their efforts which in turn impact individual incentives and overall compensation packages. The revenues may all come from one corporate coffer and go into another corporate coffer, but the issue becomes the specifics of the revenue exchange. Turf wars and territorial battles won’t get it done.

Kevin O’Malley is the former publisher of Men’s Journal Magazine.

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