Reporter's Notebook: Malcontent Is King At Agency Media Fest

  • by February 13, 2004
ORLANDO, FL - Marketers spend billions in media to advertise their products and services--much of it in network and cable television--yet still don't have the kinds of sophisticated tools necessary to measure its effectiveness across any number of variables. That was the conundrum discussed in multiple sessions and corridor conversations during the American Association of Advertising Agencies Media Conference here.

Media accountability and return on investment issues took center stage within the overall theme of the trade show, which also sought to explore consumer control of and engagement with media. While TiVo and other new technologies are putting the fate of media--and by extension, ad messages--squarely in the hands of consumers, marketers and media agencies must create new, holistic forms of communication to engage them.

Jim Stengel, Procter & Gamble Co.'s global marketing officer, challenged agencies to develop a mix of new and traditional media strategies to confront the new reality that the consumer is the boss. "The bottom line is that we are still too dependent on marketing tactics that aren't in touch with today's consumers," Stengel said. "Today's marketing model is broken, and we are once again at a turning point."



Stengel's remarks included a report card on the media industry's progress over the last decade, comparing a speech made by former P&G CEO Ed Artzt--who spoke at the AAAA Management Conference in 1994--to today. In 1994, Artzt referred to key flashpoints facing the media industry in the areas of advertising and pay-per-view, media segmentation, TV as the reigning media of choice, emerging technologies, and content sponsorship. In 2004, Stengel rated industry progress on these issues, now more pressing than ever, and offered the industry a grade of C-.

"We need new forms of measurement of media and consumer-centric marketing. How do they [consumers] want to be marketed to?" he asked, referring to multi-channel marketing including in-store, word-of-mouth, and online. He cited P&G's Tremor initiative, which employs a proprietary process to identify teen thought leaders and trendsetters to understand what motivates young people, as a form of holistic marketing.

"We continue to over-rely on TV," Stengel said. At the same time, there is blurring of all media. Multi-tasking is a way of life. "How do we measure this?" he asked conference attendees, referring to the impact, for example, of reading a magazine while watching TV on a consumer's decision-making process or brand awareness. "We lack an industry standard for measurement... We must find a way of measuring holistic marketing. Our industry is in desperate need of new tools for measurement," Stengel said.

Other conference speakers seemed to mirror Stengel's perspective, although no clear consensus emerged regarding exactly what kinds of tools were needed--and moreover, who should pay for their development: media agencies, marketers, or both.

"There is no holy grail for return on investment," said David Meer of Marakon Associates, a management consulting firm. Meer, formerly of MindShare, spoke on a panel called "Best Ways to Assess Return on Investment," and suggested that the ROI juggernaut can be triangulated with a mix of approaches. Those include econometric modeling, test and control studies, and consumer surveys to assess individual behavior.

Greg Stuart, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, promoted his group's cross-media optimization studies, conducted with 10 different marketers, and criticized reach and frequency techniques that characterize the R/F debate as escalating into a "tower of Babel."

Marketers repeatedly underscored the need for media accountability: "I need accountability and measurement--there's a lot of money being wasted right now that could be shifted into [developing] tools," said O. Andrew Jung, senior director, advertising and media services, Kellogg Co. The importance of accountability was echoed by Scott Berg, Hewlett-Packard's worldwide media director, who said he fears that if the right tools aren't in place by the next downturn, it will be another setback for media budgets when senior management decides to slash 30 percent of the budget.

In the TV arena, the inaccuracy and inadequacy of Nielsen's diaries was cited repeatedly during the conference. Nielsen has said they'll be replaced with people meters in the top 10 markets. A new meter, which Nielsen refers to as the "low cost meter," is capable of electronically measuring a market of just 3,900 households, according to Paul Donato of Nielsen Media Research. Voice and image recognition will be built into the meter, and a prototype of this will be tested by early fall. Meanwhile, a personal portable people meter, which embeds an inaudible code and measures consumers' media habits throughout the day with the help of a motion detection system, is also in development. Many in the audience were skeptical as to whether consumers will actually carry a portable people meter. The PPM could be deployed in early 2005, according to Arbitron.

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