Cross-Media Goes Back to Basics

Note to anyone considering cross-media deals: Focus more on your audience and less on the gee-whiz cutting-edge platforms.

That's the message from a forum on cross-media platforms during the first day of Forecast 2003, an event sponsored by MediaPost that brought together people in the media business to look at the industry and where it's going.

Where's the media business going? In the direction of deals that either bundle buying among properties - often within the same media company - or integrated campaigns that comprise not only traditional media but also promotional, online and direct-response components. Cross-media is in.

But that doesn't mean that it's done well or smart. The knocks against it include that cross-media deals are cumbersome, difficult to pull off efficiently, sometimes much more expensive than they would be if purchased separately and done just for the sake of being done.

Poorly planned and executed cross media is bad for everyone involved: Agencies, media outlets and clients. Avoiding that fate starts at the planning level, said Peter Gardiner, chief marketing officer of New York-based Deutsch. Start with a plan and know where your dollars are going, he said.

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"It's got to conform to the plan. It's got to work," said Gardiner. If it doesn't conform to the plan or easily shift, then don't do the deal, he advised.

The target audience and the client's goals should drive the campaign and where it's placed, panelists agreed.

Lori Wellinghof, senior vice president at Clear Channel in Covington, Ky., said that's not only a good idea on the client level, it's not a bad idea to guide the media outlets, too. Wellinghof said media outlets like Clear Channel spend a lot of time and money knowing what its audience is. The next step is to know what the advertiser's objectives.

"We need to work with agencies and clients to understand what they're trying to communicate," she said. It's not enough just to be the pipeline between advertisers and consumers. There's got to be more, Wellinghof said.

GartnerG2 analyst Denise Garcia said that in 2001, her company tracked 25 deals involving cross-media and the seven major media conglomerates. But the jury's still out on how they've done.

"It's too early to say whether those deals have been effective," Garcia said. She said 40% of the deals involve more than just advertising, too.

Panelists agreed that cross-media deals weren't going away and, as moderator Steve Smith said, they weren't going to get simpler anytime soon

"These are not for the faint of heart. … It's a lot of work," Gardiner said.

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