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I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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March 11, 2008

The Revolution Will Be Televised (It Just May Not Be A Revolution)

I wrote in an earlier post about the logical math that would drive ad budgets away from "traditional" TV (broadcast, cable) toward online videos.  Here's a great article by Alan Schulman in yesterday's Online Video Insider on how traditional agencies are co-opting the online video ad buy in a way that may limit the evolution of the medium, and illustrates how my earlier post missed the point. 

Schulman describes how traditional buyers, who couldn't be bothered with online video ad buys when they were insignificant, now lobby to include that buy as part of their turf -- as Schulman notes sarcastically, "It's all video, right?"

His concern is that if/ as "traditional" folks fold the online video ad buy into their mandates, "traditional" turf issues will limit the creative integration of the medium into a multi-channel strategy that helps audiences through various stages of buying something.  He writes:

Yet, on the buy side, I say, it's the results from an agency grab-back that actually prevent the messaging and the medium from creatively moving forward.

My theory goes something like this. To our media buying colleagues, we're simply cutting down our :30 TV commercials into :15s and handing them over to buyers to place with online publishers and portals. Since these units are essentially TV creative that's also measured on impression-based metrics rather than a CTR, engagement or other online metric, why not just think of them as another CPM that gets factored into the "video-based impression" pool, right?

After all, the marketplace is already bundling linear television buys with online pre-rolls. Just forget the lines between online and on-air. It's all video, right?

Wrong. Here's where it falls apart from a creative perspective. Say you're sitting in a creative meeting with a brand team whose digital aptitude on a scale of 1 to 10 averages a 4. You propose a business case for creating contextual video pre-rolls with a call to action overlay that clicks through to a microsite with a big honking trial activation online coupon. Suddenly, the representative from the brand's interactive marketing team says, "Really nice idea, but that would have to come out of a different budget -- because according to our media partner, online video actually resides within our TV spend."

In desperate need of an econometric media modeler, I look around the table to discover blank stares. In turn, what commences is a whole variety of new hurdles to overcome -- thereby preventing activation of what should really be a very simple, holistic, consumer experience that drives from video to trial activation to brand business results.

The full article is well worth reading.  His point is right on:  In a world where media are so fragmented, it's no longer the individual medium but the overall experience that is now the message.   But everything is stacked against this today:  marketing organizations, the agencies who support them, the measurement services that track the flow of dollars from old to new channels, and the industry events people go to to learn about how to do all this stuff, are all organized by individual media instead of integrated  experience.  According to a report released today by the Association of National Advertisers, progress on this front is limited and it's a sore point for senior marketing executives.  (I suppose that's sort of an Onionesque finding, like saying "This just in -- moon still in orbit.")

So what's the way forward?  "experience marketing" has to start with measuring the results of such campaigns to prove that coordinated execution produces superior results.  Once the case is made, we'll see (just as we did nearly twenty years ago with  "re-engineering") the rise of  "experience agencies" that persuade marketers to trim a little from each of their traditionally stove-piped media budgets, to create a pooled budget for "experience marketing greenhouses" that incubate such campaigns.

How will this happen?  In the case of re-engineering, it was the advent of low-cost, networked client-server architectures that made it possible to integrate operations.  In the case of marketing, it's the advent of multi-channel tracking systems, like what Manu Mathew, Alan Osetek, and their colleagues at VisualIQ are doing.  Even Google's now headed in this direction as well, if slowly.  But the availability of the systems is only part of the challenge.  Getting the data is hard, integrating the data is harder (standards will help, but will as always be slow to evolve).  Hardest will be making sure, in an environment where so much data gets generated, that we're actually providing information to support the decisions that need to be made (stay tuned for an upcoming post on this).

Meanwhile, what's needed is a central collection point for "experience marketing" stories -- like maybe a Journal of Experience MarketingHmm...

In the near future, while ad dollars will continue to flood online in their individual categories, look for the bulk of "experience marketing" to mean campaigns that optimize across two, max three touchpoints, like online display vs. search, or either of these vs. spend on a firm's website/ microsites.   For now, our technological reach mostly exceeds our organizational grasp.

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