Commentary

Cross-Platform Finally Taking Shape

Integrated media. Cross-platform opportunities. The fruition of Big Media merger promises. Bundled, or in the attempted early executions it was often more like bungled. It seems that until recently, integrated media was still more about the potential it held--for while very few were actually doing it, even fewer seemed to be doing it well.

What were the challenges preventing execution? And what exactly were the benefits?

The challenges, it seemed, were aplenty. Agencies weren't yet built or suited to plan, purchase, or create for online and offline. This presented a major hurdle for the media companies able to offer cross-platform marketing. But the landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Since the AOL Time Warner merger and those integration promises of yesteryear, more level-one marketers have digital or interactive experiences. Agencies and clients alike have people from all sides of media represented at the table. And the consumer has changed dramatically: They have ubiquitously adopted broadband, allowing for an always-on, ever-increasing dependency on the Web for information and communication.

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The goals of many campaigns have changed, too. More clients are looking for consumer engagement with their Web sites; advertisers have begun to showcase their products and services in engaging ways. It's generally recognized that an incredible amount of value is placed on consumer interaction with products and services online. The capabilities we enjoy today were hardly possible 10 years ago, and the values that are so widely realized today were barely even recognized just five years ago!

Back then, if it wasn't an account or a sale, then the user was viewed as someone who simply came and went from their site. Today there is a much greater value attached to a plethora of measurement capabilities, like view-through, time spent, profiling, follow-ups, information gathered, or even interaction within the advertising unit. Web ad units have made great advancements, offering far more interactive and measurable features; Pointroll has built a whole company around just that capability. Over the years, all of the educational and evangelical efforts made from all sides of our industrial hexagon are really starting to take shape, and the payoff has become dramatic for everyone involved.

During the last couple of years, barely a conference keynote goes by without an acknowledgement of the fragmented media marketplace. These professionals consistently cite how complex the advertising world is and how difficult it is to get their message out through all the clutter.

Similarly, clients are publicly asking for great ideas, and agencies and publishers are quickly responding with great ideas that often work across multiple media platforms. I have to point out that simply including attractive pricing for these multiple media within a company's stable of offerings isn't the solution to the integration puzzle.

The industry needs to learn to build an idea or concept, tie the client's objectives from medium to medium, and then execute the plan. It may sound simple to some, but it's no small task. For example, the newly formed CBS Digital Media group recognizes the importance and sensitive nature of this task; they have dedicated personnel specifically to link sales force efforts between digital media and network television.

It's true that the marketing mix is a complex one today, but when the messages are woven together among the various media and appropriate target audiences, the clutter becomes a message that resonates with the consumer. Often by using the broad-mass reach of television coupled with the laser-like and highly relevant online impressions, today's marketers can achieve their goals in a one-, two-, or three-step plan.

Integrated media is finally alive, well, and answering the call for smart, innovative, and effective media planning. All you have to do is follow the plan.

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