Column: Aperture -- Be Upfront About Change

You're in pre-planning season for most of your clients and the network group is chomping at the bit, saying, "The upfront is about to start and we need to know budgets." National television is important to clients' campaigns, but there's something gnawing at you. The consumer work that you have done over the past year indicates that broad-based media vehicles increase awareness but aren't inspiring action. Consumers tell you that they are more likely to take action after being exposed to more personal communications: "A word from an authority," they say, or, "Information on my terms -- what I want when I want it."

Many of the conversations you've been having with clients are in the expanding world of digital media. Clients show up to meetings with BlackBerries or Treos. Half have some sort of digital video recorder, and swear by it. VCast is the way they share their latest ad copy with friends and associates.

So is one-way, traditional media headed to a dead-end?

We're hearing more buzz than ever about new digital media platforms. Broadcast and cable networks are some of the most active players in this space. In the past six months we've seen ABC and Comcast agree to make the network's content available on a video-on-demand platform. Disney, NBC Universal, and CBS have secured agreements with Apple to place shows on iTunes for viewing on the video iPod. ESPN has created a cell phone service, Mobile ESPN, and News Corp and NBC Universal bought and, respectively.

And the numbers for digital media are growing quickly. Home ownership of PCs is at 74 percent penetration. Almost all of these households have some form of Internet access. Broadband is now at critical mass, reaching nearly 40 percent of all households. Major Web sites are reaching more people than the average primetime show. IPod adoption is at 40 million-plus and increasing rapidly. u.s. cell phone penetration is at 76 percent, and phones are upgraded every two years, ensuring that the latest technology is available not only to the early adopters, but to as many users as possible. The latest application in development is the merging of the cell phone and the credit card. What's next?

These new media platforms will not replace but may instead complement old media if used wisely. Broad-based one-way media is still effective at reaching large numbers of new consumers and raising awareness among current consumers and prospects. For most brand messaging, television, radio, print, and traditional out-of-home channels provide a strong foundation of broad reach, while newer digital media offer targetability like never before.

We must develop seamless links between one-way media and the newer digital platforms. We know that multichannel usage is taking place during TV viewing, and much of that involves the Internet. Let's challenge ourselves to create opportunities to leverage that relationship more than the usual "visit our Web site for more on this story." Creating a content link that's used simultaneously may cement a strong role for one-way media and give it new life in our communications plans.

Some advertisers have already created successful links. Last November, gm partnered with CBS to create a five-minute Webisode of "CSI Miami," prominently featuring a Hummer, that could only be viewed on More than a million people did so.

Geico recently sponsored "Evel Knievel's Wild Ride" on A&E to promote motorcycle insurance, featuring VOD and a branded online motorcycle video game that drew more than 4 million players over three months.

We must continue to challenge media companies and ourselves to go beyond the quick buck and look for meaningful connections with our consumers and their viewers. That's why we say: Don't do it. Don't give the network group their budgets before creating a holistic approach to consumer connection. Don't carve out the "television budget" and see what's left over for the rest. Let's understand our consumers' needs, interests, and behaviors, then create unique and connected roles for new digital media and the traditional media we know so well.

Steve Farella, president-CEO, and Audrey Siegel, executive vice president and director of client services, are cofounders of TargetCast TCM. (

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