Mixing Media: Execs Grapple With Integrated Plans

PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- Integrating various media to reach the consumer with a perfect surround-sound message is the holy grail of advertising. Which means it takes a great deal of effort to reach it. That's the general consensus of leading magazine publishers, researchers and media planners speaking on the second morning of the American Magazine Conference.

Rex Briggs, CEO of Marketing Evolution, noted some positive news for magazines during his presentation, which detailed his company's new magazine accountability research. This research has extended Marketing Evolution's earlier attempts to determine "side-by-side, what's the return on investment for marketing, television and the Internet" to include magazines. The company surveyed 19 proprietary studies of actual sales results from different combinations of media--for example, magazines alone, versus magazines plus TV, or both media plus the Internet.

The good news was twofold.

Credible quantitative data on the effects of different mixes are available, and magazines do well in these measures. Studying consumer sentiment at five different levels of the "purchase funnel"--from brand awareness at the top to actual purchase intent at the bottom--Marketing Evolution found magazines work especially well in the intermediate and final stages of decision-making. Thus, for car advertisers, TV alone boosts brand awareness 12%; magazines alone boost it 6%.



But when it comes to purchase intent, magazines give a 5% boost versus TV's 4%. Magazines were also the most effective element in intermediate measures, like brand familiarity and imagery.

Best of all, according to Briggs, are combinations of TV, online and magazines, versus a baseline index of 100 for TV alone. The trifecta boosts brand awareness to 142, and purchase intent to 145. "We look for a consistent message across different channels of communication," he said, concluding that the key to marketing is not maximizing a single channel of communication, but leveraging all channels to the appropriate degree.

Despite this uptick, the industry is beset by structural and organizational obstacles, including the parochial self-interest of media silos that slows the way media is bought and sold. Although clearly a problem for publishers, it's mirrored on the client side and among media planners who are used to working with them.

"Most media agencies are still set up the way they were in the 1950s," noted Ronnie Beason, executive vice president and director of planning at Carat USA, with separate print, TV and planning groups. "You bring us an integrated plan, and we rip it apart" because the individual components need to be reviewed and approved by the directors of each group, he said. "It's frustrating for you, and it's frustrating for me." It's doubly frustrating for media companies because simply producing these integrated plans requires a great deal of internal coordination in the first place.

According to MaryAnn Bekkedahl, executive vice president and group publisher of Rodale Magazines, Rodale has established a relatively efficient cross-channel sales team--but "we'd love to be even better organized for integrated sales."

In this vein, Scott Crystal, president of TV Guide, added: "The silos are there--they're still real." Crystal said this problem "needs to be addressed top-down" by executives offering compensation to encourage cooperation between silos. Otherwise, he adds, there's no incentive. Until executives do that, he said, it will be "much harder to execute than just talk about it."

Bekkedahl said media buyers often add to the confusion by treating integration as a buzzword--an item on a checklist that's invoked in a cursory way. "We've had media buyers ask us if we can do a 5,000-person email blast. What's the value in that? It's because they want to impress their boss with 'we bought five media platforms!'"

Overall, integrated plans are only as good as the data they use, coupled with the inherent problems of silo structures. To get a disinterested assessment of the way different media work together, Beason said many clients are "hiring Rex Briggs-type companies" to do research. For its part, Carat has a "research component embedded" in each campaign, Beason said, adding that Carat is starting to get involved with in-house research of the type performed by Marketing Evolution.

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