Can Integrated Media Really Work If Limited to Owned Properties?

While the FCC and Congress wrestle with the issue of increased media ownership, the ad industry rightfully worries that continued concentration of media could result a shift in the balance of power towards the media companies at the expense of agencies and direct client-side media buyers.

The broadcast networks have already shown they are not afraid to wield their clout with a club when they make advertisers buy less desirable time as the price of admission to buying inventory on highly rated programming. When the NBC- Vivendi deal goes down, do you think buyers will have to place orders on cable networks USA and Sci-Fi in order to get a piece of "Friends" or the Olympics? Probably.

Media companies often justify their mergers and acquisitions saying the combined companies will achieve "synergy" that over-used, over hyped word that resulted in Time Warner shareholders losing billions of value as it acquiesced to AOL. While "synergy" can mean everything from "we can reduce costs by eliminating duplicate positions and real estate from the two companies" to "we'll now have two corporate jets instead of four" to the advertising community synergy is often positioned as "we will be able to leverage our media properties to your better advantage."



Consumers have never in history had so many different media options. As a nation we have "evolved" from book and magazine and newspaper readers to become radio listeners, TV watchers, Internet users, moviegoers, and with digital circuitry advances, we now do all of it in our cars or walking down the street. As a result, there is no longer a predominant medium to reach nearly all consumers (as was once true with radio, then broadcast television).

This has prompted the media consolidation that so preoccupies the Hill these days as companies have sough to own as many media channels as possible. The end game is twofold to get consumers into the company database in order to cross sell/cross promote other company media and second to reestablish the ability to reach an increasingly fragmented audience with ad messages in various media formats.

And so consolidation begat integrated media SWAT sales teams who claim to have the ability to place your ads in nearly every one of the properties they own. Here's that leverage thing. And the more you buy, the better the price.

But. What you are offered as a buyer are only the properties owned by the media company. Do you think for a New York minute that if your key demo target is men 18-35, that AOL or Hearst or CBS will say, "Geez, you really ought be on Fox's NFL football." Not a chance.

This is where being an independent rep company has its own leverage. At Interep have our own media sales SWAT teams (made up of radio, event promotion, outdoor and Internet sales and marketing folk) but we are not confined by being media owners to recommending to advertisers only certain properties. We pull together from a reach of 250 million consumers a month whatever properties we think will best meet the client's needs. We even go beyond the radio stations and Internet sites in our portfolios to acquire the most effective inventory. Oddly, no one has ever said, "No we don't want those incremental ad dollars."

The media we represent is just as "branded" as media sold by the large conglomerates, the only difference is that our reps have the flexibility to offer bundled inventory from across a wide spectrum of media companies, not just one. Nor are our properties pre-packaged so that clients are helping prop up weaker properties as the admission price to get space on stronger, better known properties.

Ask one of the major media conglomerates to sell you inventory from a property they don't own and stand back from the stammer.

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