And Now for Something Not So Completely Different: The Latest Iteration of Cross Media Marketing Platforms


In the latter years of the 90's, Jack Myers helped usher in the age of cross media marketing platforms (CMMP), whose primary goal was to generate incremental revenue for the parent company as well as to provide its sibling divisions with a multitude of off-channel exposure. In those days, the major media conglomerates were in constant morph by acquiring all kinds of assets - mostly through stock trades - from every conceivable medium, i.e., broadcast, cable, publishing (newspapers, magazines, custom), new media (online), themed venues (retail, sports), place based as well as TV production, brand integration and event marketing. This corporate strategy was developed to entice the marketer to allocate even more advertising dollars to the parent company at higher CPMs as well as to provide free, additional cross promotional exposure to generate greater awareness, which would hopefully translate into ratings augmentation for the program and accolades for the parent company as well as benefit the advertiser through an up tick in product sales.

Famous players included (to name the more prominent but not alphabetically):
• ESPN Brand Partnerships
• ESPN/ABC Sports Customer Marketing & Sales
• News Corp One
• Turner Global Marketing Solutions Group
• Disney Integrated Marketing Endeavors
• ABC Unlimited
• NBC Connect
• CBS Plus
• Viacom Plus
• Bloomberg TV

By the turn of the 21st Century, the CMMP buzz died down and so did many of the primary players. News Corp., NBC and Viacom dissipated; the other entities, excluding ESPN and Turner, though still in existence today, are shells of their former selves - at least as reported by the trades.

There were a few contributing factors that led to their demise: the cross media marketing groups were treated as stepchildren within the corporate family; there was little synergy between divisions given that they were run as independent fiefdoms each with its own bottom line and bonus structure; the final product, in most instances, turned out to be an enhanced added value - an improvement in billboards, mentions and tickets - but not quantifiable and in many cases, a limited execution; and most importantly, the advertisers were hoping for pricing discounts when committing incremental dollars, which ran contrary to the media manager's dreams of financial grandeur.

So why mention this now, you might ask: because they are back. Yet again. In May 2007, I penned a blog entitled "And Now for Something Completely Esoteric: the Medium Is Not The Message, The Content Is". At that juncture there had been three announcements within weeks of one another of new CMMP initiatives by the major media conglomerates that on the surface reminded one of the early days of the original cross media marketing platforms:
Fox One
A sales unit to develop and implement integrated marketing opportunities crossing the gamut of News Corp.'s global assets and a variety of media platforms.

CBS Connections
A sales division designed to reach across the company's many delivery platforms including Entertainment, News, Interactive and Paramount TV.

The Warner Bros. Television Group Digital Media Sales
A sales unit whose mission is to provide advertisers with a one-stop, comprehensive, multiplatform approach for media planning and spending. The group will be responsible for brokering Internet and mobile advertising related to all content from WBTVG's television production arms: Warner Bros. Television. Warner Horizon Television, Telepictures Productions and Warner Bros. Animation as well as Studio 2.0, WBTVG's new digital production venture.

At that time, in my opinion, there was an important distinction between the original CMMP concept, which was solely based on a gaggle of media assets that were owned by a media conglomerate, and its latest iteration, whose foundation was content. This time the media companies would provide advertisers with the ability to marry a marketing message to specific content, regardless of genre, that traversed many old and new distribution platforms. This time around, one hoped, the medium would not be the message, but content would be.

I'm sorry to report that the media conglomerates appear to be delivering déjà vu all over again - again. Since their 2007 inceptions we have heard very little about the endeavors from Fox One, CBS Connections and The Warner Bros. Television Group Digital Media Sales. Perhaps the media blackout is deliberate. I mention this phenomenon because this spring (2008), a new group of media cross platformers has materialized - each representing major cross media food groups:

Meredith 360
Meredith has unveiled an energetic strategy to enhance its 360 media approach, whose mission is to help advertisers create integrated campaigns using the company's various media properties (broadcast, print, online).

Gannett's One Gannett
Gannett has unveiled the formation of an internal cross media platform sales unit named One Gannett. Assets include 23 local TV stations, a slew of newspapers and the elevator network Captivate.

Katz 360 Sales
Katz Radio Group has created a new digital division, Katz 360 Sales, whose mission will be to integrate Net Radio Sales - the online radio ad sales services it acquired last year - with Katz's other digital assets, including Katz Mobile, Katz Database and Katz' partner Ando Media in order to provide advertisers with a single point of contact for multichannel campaigns (broadcast, online and mobile).

CBS/Integrating Marketing Unit
CBS has announced the formation of a new advertising division whose mission is to meld brands and programs "with advertiser's interests through product integration and unique promotion efforts."

AOL People Networks
AOL has combined social community properties Bebo, AIM, ICQ and its other social platforms to form a new business unit called People Networks. There are 80 million unduplicated users and AOL's Platform-A will handle the unit's advertising.

Microsoft Advertising
Microsoft has launched Microsoft Advertising, a division that will encompass the company's growing list of offerings for advertisers and web publishers.

If history continues to repeat itself, as it oft has, the aforementioned, recently birthed cross media marketing platforms will amount to nothing more than portfolio marketing solutions rather than providing advertisers with an opportunity to marry a marketing message to specific content that traverses many traditional and new distribution platforms utilizing attributes of each to engage the consumer in an environment most suited for their needs.



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