What makes alternative media so compelling for advertisers these days? It seems like I can't go a day without reading a new article about some big company diverting more of its marketing budget to "below-the-line" campaigns, or a new study indicating that TV is dead and virtually anything else is better. I believe there are four distinct reasons for this phenomenon. First, some agencies are fearful of losing accounts because they're unable to demonstrate a positive ROI to their clients, so they have started adding accountable new media programs to their existing repertoires. Second, brands are becoming more aggressive and experimental in the face of growth challenges and economic uncertainty. Third, traditional media simply aren't delivering the goods like they used to. And fourth, there are more alternative outlets available than before -- and people are (collectively) paying more attention to them.
Don't believe me? For that last item I can point to some very recent data published by BIGresearch, a respectable name in the media analysis biz if there ever was one. Consider the findings from their latest Simultaneous Media Survey (SIMM): "While traditional media still rank on top, many are declining in influence and some are showing double digit losses over the previous year; whereas, many new media options are showing double digit growth. For example, when compared to SIMM 9 (Dec. 06), Instant Messaging and Blogging experienced double digit growth for purchase influence of electronics at 22% and 21.5%, respectively. Conversely, Broadcast TV and Cable showed a decline of 13.9% and 14.4%." Growth was apparent in other alternative media as well. Notably, respondents said that in-store promotion influenced about 27.4% of their purchase decisions, reflecting growth of 0.5% over last year. This influence was virtually identical to TV advertising, which influenced 27.9% of decisions, despite the much smaller budgets often devoted to in-store campaigns.
While below-the-line approaches have steadily grown over the last five years, above-the-line media haven't fared as well. The same SIMM research concluded that the impact of broadcast TV and cable TV has been plummeting (their influence declined 13.9% and 14.4%, respectively). Newspapers, inserts and magazines haven't fared much better, losing 1.2%, 4.5% and 3.7% each. Of course, alternative media wasn't spared completely. Despite strong growth in the electronic billboard industry (have you seen the March 2008 issue of Inc. yet?), the overall influence of billboards fell 0.9% to only 6.7%. Likewise, even the newest of the "new media" weren't immune to losses. The impact of cell phone video advertising fell 10.6% to 6.9%, though I'm guessing this is because virtually all cell phone video is still terrible and provides little value to consumers.
If these trends in consumer opinion aren't enough to influence companies to experiment with more varied forms of advertising, we need only turn our attention to some of the CPG heavyweights, like Kimberly-Clark and P&G. Both of these firms are cranking up their in-store presence, typically by pulling money out of other programs. In fact, Advertising Age recently reported that Kimberly-Clark has reduced spending on TV ads from 60% to 46% of their overall marketing budget, while their spending on nontraditional media has more than doubled since 2004. Meanwhile, P&G just reaffirmed its bullish position on in-store marketing. According to MediaPost (and as covered previously on Digital Signage News), CEO A.G. Lafley "gave a ringing endorsement Thursday to an industry initiative aimed at gauging how effective in-store marketing is in driving purchase decisions." P&G spends $10 billion a year on in-store marketing initiatives, about the same amount that they spend on more traditional advertising-based channels. (That's Billions -- with a "B". Can you imagine how much money that is? I can't.) While some people look at in-store and other below-the-line tactics as a way to shore up ailing advertising practices, Lafley sees the different channels as complementary. In fact, he says that P&G expects to use the data gathered from at-retail studies to improve their other advertising programs, too.
P&G's Lafley makes another very important point here: media can (and usually should) work together to create a cohesive brand experience. Yet all too often, there's not enough communication between the different brand and agency groups responsible for all of the media formats being worked on. We see this in the digital signage world all the time. The agency responsible for putting together an in-store TV promo frequently can't get the necessary content assets -- let alone time with the marketing/creative professionals from the brand itself -- and therefore has to reinvent the wheel. This not only translates into more work when producing the in-store spots, but also creates fragmentation when the in-store media doesn't conform to existing marketing goals and campaign styles. This conflict is the bane of all multichannel marketing and advertising projects, and is often used as an excuse to not get involved with them in the first place. Sadly, I doubt there's an easy solution to the problem.
What about you? Have you had trouble getting people from the "traditional" media side to help with your project? If you're an agency, what strategies do you use to mitigate the problems that arise in multichannel campaigns?
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