EXCLUSIVE: Navigating Today's Wild, Wild Media World
When it comes to media buying, it's a jungle out there. The increasingly fragmented media landscape is fraught with both enormous challenges and unique opportunities for ad buyers. As in the animal kingdom, the difference between living to see another day and being eaten alive may come down to how well you can see.
Fragmentation has resulted in a media world that's more multifaceted and complex than ever before. At the same time, savvy buyers have an unprecedented ability to target potential customers with highly customized—and effective—messaging. The key is to know where to look. And there are lots of places to look these days.
Media buyers face a disjointed and confusing world of online, broadcast, print, sponsorships, video games, billboards, taxi tops and even bathroom stalls. The choices are practically endless. At the same time, the technology that media buyers use hasn't evolved as quickly as the media environment in which they now find themselves. The limitations inherent to the status quo of the ad buying world are on a collision course with progress. The choice is a stark one: either evolve or perish.
The Waning Days of the 'Silo Mentality'
Intense media fragmentation combined with a lack of sophisticated tools have led media buyers to specialize in specific media. Becoming experts in their individual niches was necessary to deal with the volumes of information. Those days are over.
Advertisers demand integrated campaigns that focus on reaching specific target audiences, regardless of medium. As this concept of "media agnosticism" sweeps the landscape, I believe we're seeing the end of the siloed approach to media planning and buying.
Not only is the silo mentality obsolete, it's actually harmful. Specialization results in turf wars instead of collaboration. Integration is what's required now, and that means knowing and having access to information across multiple channels.
To make matters worse, the silo mentality creates an administrative nightmare. Media agencies grapple with a massive shortage of talented people to fill entry-level and midlevel positions. This talent shortage is the result of high staff turnover as entry-level people tend to jump ship for other agencies (or sales positions in publishing firms) at double the salary within a year or two of being hired. In this context, a siloed media structure leads to an institutional memory vacuum. Important information is almost certain to fall through the cracks if an employee leaves his or her job.
Given the complex, fragmented media landscape and the need for media buyers to be skilled and savvy across all media, what's the solution? How can media buying organizations survive, and even prosper, in this challenging environment?
A first step many companies can take is to break the silo mentality by developing cross-functional media buyers armed with the tools for capturing knowledge and sharing information. Given the multifaceted reality of the media jungle, there is a fast-growing demand for seamless, easy-to-use planning solutions that tackle all aspects of the media buying process across all media—print, online, broadcast, outdoor, events and more—along with advanced planning, knowledge management and communications features such as RFI and RFP functionality for contacting publishers directly.
These emerging media planning and buying solutions offer advertisers and agencies a win-win solution. Not only do they bridge the media fragmentation gap, but they also equip advertisers with a wide-angle view of the media opportunities that are most likely to connect with customers and increase the bottom line. In addition, these powerful new tools provide media organizations with a competitive advantage by allowing them to shift their efforts from administrative work to high-value strategic services.
Along with outfitting media buyers with the ability to research and submit RFPs across all media, some of these new platforms offer planning and tracking functionality that acts as a storehouse of institutional knowledge (think Salesforce.com for media planning). Throughout campaigns, buyers have the ability to save searches, develop favorites lists, and add notes and reviews to specific properties. This information is then available to other buyers in the organization resulting in an institutional knowledgebase that drives continuous improvement over time, regardless of staffing changes.
Online media management programs track opportunities, facilitate connections and demonstrate results to advertisers and publishers. Collaboration tools exist for sharing research, target lists and campaigns across departments. The ability to instantly call up details and campaigns brings an efficient workflow to media buying.
Any remaining media silos will quickly see that collective knowledge helps create the best integrated campaigns, speeding adoption of these approaches across the organization.
Media buying organizations are still adapting to today's fragmented media landscape. But they can gain a competitive advantage with cross-media buyers who understand the importance of identifying, storing and sharing expertise.
The Upside of Media Fragmentation
As the era of media fragmentation continues to unfold, media buyers face an increasingly volatile advertising marketplace. But fragmentation also offers special opportunities. The upside is it provides advertisers with the ability to accurately target the most likely customers via niche media. Combining these efforts with creative mainstream media and online campaigns using an integrated, collaborative approach creates a synergy in which the whole is much greater than the sum of its individual parts. And the good news is today's emerging media buying and planning solutions provide the tools that help media buyers discover, plan and implement campaigns across multiple channels. Here are just a few ways the new breed of cross-media buyers can improve targeting while diversifying their campaigns:
- Make it local. The growing popularity of local Web sites, targeted outdoor placements and hyper-local print is creating more opportunities for businesses of all sizes to reach local audiences online. Marketers often can get better results by taking advantage of these opportunities by moving some of their ad budget from limited and pricier mainstream media buys to more targeted ad buys that are highly customized down to the local level.
- Engage with online video. Online video advertising is emerging as a new and affordable way for businesses to reach their audiences, locally and on a much broader level through viral video campaigns. Online video news clips and segments are among the most popular types of content attracting online consumers today. Advertisers can find a wide array of opportunities for presenting targeted and relevant online video ads to these consumers either pre-, mid-, or post-roll. Online video entertainment sites like Metacafe and blip.tv offer professionally produced online video entertainment with highly targeted and loyal audiences for media buyers to place their online ads.
- Get noticed out-of-home. New technologies are offering imaginative new opportunities for spreading the word with outdoor and out-of-home advertising. Digital, video and wireless technologies are creating more methods for advertisers to reach their audiences out-of-home beyond the traditional cardboard display. Captivating video and television advertising content can reach consumers and potential customers contextually, placed right where you want them to be when they get your message—whether in a bar, shopping mall, retail outlet, gas station, elevator or gym.
The Increasing Demand for Cross-Medium Ad Tools
As the media landscape becomes more fragmented and ad platforms become more sophisticated, it's imperative that ad-planning and buying systems allow seamless cross-medium planning and execution that reaches customers across their media consumption habits. Media buyers must have access to the panoramic, sweeping vision that's critical to their identifying opportunities and measuring effectiveness in today's media jungle—and living to see another day.
Pete Gombert is CEO of Balihoo, a provider of advertising productivity solutions based in Boise, Idaho. He can be reached at (866) 446-9914.