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Commentary & Analysis

New Media Lemmings

By Frank J.

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 24, 2006

By Frank J. Romano February 24, 2006 -- Blogs, video iPods, podcasts, paid search, and satellite radio. These were some of the topics discussed when a group of marketing mavens met recently to discuss how to reach consumers. Scott Berg, worldwide media director for Hewlett-Packard Co., said "Media has moved from being an expense," explaining HP's model for viewing media expenditures like a mutual fund in which dollars are reallocated to the most effective media. That makes sense--you put your marketing dollars where they will do the most good. "As they focus on things like search and rich media, marketers have forgotten to step back and look at consumer behavior." But much of the discussion focused on non-traditional (read this as "non print") ways to reach consumers. Because of the proliferation of new outlets, media agencies and marketers who watch over media expenditures have become perhaps overly important. They speak the new jargon of advertising and marketing. "We've been going back to school on the consumer," said Cindy Tripp, associate director-media and marketing at Procter & Gamble Co., describing the company's shift to a consumer-centric communications planning approach. That new thinking led to a launch program for "Tide to Go" in which public relations and interactive, rather than a TV or print campaign, led the way. But not every marketer is doing this, as it was pointed out by Jeff Lanctot, Avenue A/Razorfish VP-media and client services, who was responsible for over $300 million in billing, and works for clients like BestBuy and AstraZeneca. He said, "As they focus on things like search and rich media, marketers have forgotten to step back and look at consumer behavior." MediaVest USA CEO Laura Desmond expressed her concern that agencies aren't thriving in the rapidly developing digital, non-linear field. "Do we have a big enough imagination to play in the field?" she asked. "Can we dream bigger?" In the race to show how new-media-bearish they are, marketers and their agencies are ignoring reality. Lanctot advised marketers to think about an outlet they might have last thought about in 1998--their companies' websites. "People forgot about websites," he said. "There's this sameness about websites wherever you go. They can really be a central expression for a brand." The heart of all the mavens' opinions was the sense that in the absence of an effective media plan, even the most compelling commercial messages will get lost. "You can have the greatest creative in the world and if it doesn't reach the right people in the right context, it doesn't matter," said Susan Eberhart, who, as exec VP-director of communications planning at ZenithOptimedia, oversees planning for Nestle USA's portfolio. In the race to show how new-media-bearish they are, marketers and their agencies are ignoring reality. It is the blend of print and electronic media that will reach and persuade the consumer. But, the new media newbies are focused on only one channel in a multi-channel world. Unfortunately, there was no one there to speak for print. There was no one there to lead the herd of lemmings away from the cliff. There will be no haven for a misguided media maven. As an industry, we are not getting the word out about the role of print in the new world order.

 

 

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