The New Integration: It's Not What You Think
Traditionally, the benefit of an integrated campaign has been thought to be about synergies, where one plus one plus one equals something more than three.
The problem with the traditional mindset is that one never really knows whether these synergies truly exist. How much benefit did the email campaign obtain from the direct mail? How much more effective were the online display ads when a DRTV campaign was run simultaneously? These are tough questions.
In fact, the only way to know for sure is to measure each channel discretely. This is difficult to do, but not impossible. Here are four keys to the new integration.
1. Focus on Metrics that Matter
Some metrics are not meaningful to the people who matter-that is, the people to whom you report: the CFO and the CEO. They care about revenue, sales and ROI. The CMO will dig deeper and care about details like cost-per-sale, cost-per-lead and cost-per-call. These are the metrics that count.
Traditional, and even digital, agencies tend to rely on other measurements-such as awareness, clicks, page views, impressions and purchase intent-without knowing whether, or how, they correlate with sales results. While these data points are a great start, they are not the place to focus.
Building the best possible integrated campaign means starting with your most important goals. What's more, it doesn't stop with measuring—each channel must be optimized to top performance.
When you know what your goal is, you're more likely to get where you want to go. Knowing your goals is essential to knowing what your campaign should look like and, in particular, selecting the media you should test.
2. No Discipline Owns a Specific Media Channel
When it's time to determine the media strategy, your alternatives are now vast. A misstep is likely if you don't keep a few ideas in mind: In the new integration, mass advertising is more than TV and direct marketing is more than mail. And, naturally, digital is more than digital. (I'll come back to this in a minute.)
Traditionally, planning a general advertising campaign has meant television, radio and print media. The more people who see the message and become aware of the brand, the better. But now, with the fragmentation of TV and other media audiences and the better targeting capabilities that have come with it, direct marketers have stepped into to these media. By the same token, mass advertisers and direct marketers are deeply immersed in digital.
Professionals in traditional advertising have goals around awareness, liking, and perhaps even intention to purchase. We say that the purpose of advertising is to change minds, while the purpose of direct marketing is to change behavior.
These overarching goals make advertising and direct marketing their own distinct disciplines. What is the goal of a digital professional?
My argument is that digital goals can fall into either camp. Some digital projects have brand engagement as the goal. The digital shop may create a destination site. Other projects-ecommerce sites, most online display advertising and all search engine marketing, for example-have direct sales or response as the goal and create marketing messages. I think you get my point: Digital is not its own discipline.
Knowing this, you can decide early on if your goals are about brand-building or direct sales. Then create your media plan.
3. Plan Holistically
Many traditionally integrated campaigns begin with a media bias. If the marketer has usually done a direct mail campaign, the plan starts with direct mail and then other components are added-email, for example, or DRTV.
For the best direct marketing results, rather than start with a media bias, start with a performance bias. If you have performance goals, start your plan with the media most likely to reach the goals. You will need to make some assumptions about response rates, but over time, your guesses will become more accurate.
The key is to execute across all relevant, accountable media. Generally, if the media can't be measured, don't start there. However, most media are now measurable, at least to some degree.
4.Measure and Optimize Discretely
Each channel needs to be measured on its own, knowing that attributing the lead to the correct channel is sometimes just a best guess. This will never be perfect. Someone may have seen your DRTV commercial and responded to the direct mail-so the mailing gets the credit. Establish business rules for attribution before the fact and get all stakeholders to sign off to prevent arguments later. However, perfection is not the goal. Learning and optimizing is the goal.
Optimization is also done by channel-at the appropriate cadence for the medium. For example, media buys can be optimized weekly during a DRTV campaign, where it may take several weeks to know which direct mail lists have performed best.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
When you know what has worked best in your tests and have learned whether you have met your goals, you can start over again-this time allocating media not by your assumptions, but based on performance and optimization. Reinvest in media that drive results. Drop those that don't. While you're at it, you will also want to test creative approaches and offers within channels. But that's a different story for a different day.
By building your media plan based on performance, rather than what's been done in the past or the biases of your agency partners, you will create a positive feedback loop with metrics that resonate with your bosses in the C-suite.
Spyro Kourtis is president and CEO of Hacker Group, one of the largest direct/digital agencies in the West. To hear more, attend his session, "Which Medium Works: Multi-Channel Testing For High-Performance Results," at the DMA2011 Conference in Boston in October.