Future for media requires interaction

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After 40 years at the helm of the traditional media business with three major agencies, I traded in my diploma for an advanced degree in higher learning. It's become quite clear the media business as we knew it will never be the same as the digital media era emerges. As a result, we can look forward to a whole new framework for evaluating media effectiveness.

About half of U.S. homes today have Internet access. Shortly, wireless devices will provide even greater access to the Web. This will inevitably reinforce consumers' affinity for the Internet whether in their homes, the office or on the go. As convergence takes place and broadband capabilities increase, consumers will continue to modify their behavior and usage with virtually every medium. Not just content but advertising will be designed to take advantage of richer video and audio opportunities from multiple platforms.

The tools we currently use to maximize traditional media investments will no longer be based solely on vehicle exposure or ad impressions. Because of the Internet and, more importantly, interactivity, effectiveness will be evaluated on productivity. A medium's ability to produce greater revenue for advertisers will be based on metrics such as sales conversions, registrations or lead generation. No longer will total audience media measurements rule. They will not even come close to how advertisers benchmark media investments.

MULTIPLE TOUCH POINTS

Advertisers already ask communication channels to demonstrate a proven relationship with consumers, and ask advertising to serve as an ancillary sales channel. Both offline and online media are creating different ways to reach individual segments of the population through multiple platforms. These programs not only exploit a variety of media assets; they're meant to be genuine marketing solutions for advertiser objectives. So multiple touch points are now required to reach consumers in a highly fragmented media environment, and content is reconfigured, enhanced and adapted to different media formats to attract prospects in different ways.

It's likely Tivo and Replay TV will define how viewers alter their TV experience in the future, when the personal video recorder makes it easy to digitally record shows and eliminate commercials. As interactive TV evolves, links between TV content and the Web, including advertising, will prevail. Studios and networks, even local TV stations, will become online content providers.

Magazines and newspapers already offer content on the Web. Most attract revenue from advertising but some also have success with a subscription model. The concept of subscriber revenue will grow. Many publishers are realizing they can extend their print brand with a Web site that often attracts a different audience and can increase print subscriptions as well as their database more economically.

Radio faces changes too, as streaming becomes widespread and stations begin charging for advertising received through their Web channels. Through the Internet, local stations compete for listeners with stations virtually anywhere and Web sites that stream their own audio content. But wait until voice-activated audio Webcasts are played in autos, a major segment of radio's audience. Or MP3 players download personalized music from digital transmission networks. This could have an impact on a station's ad revenue.

INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS

Consolidations and alliances of media companies have brought a focus on cross-selling and integrated packaging. It's also created more of a problem-solving orientation in the media business. It's no longer just a space-and-spots commodity marketplace. In the process, there's less reliance on traditional measures as a selling proposition and more on integrated marketing solutions. Virtually all this new wave of media offerings provide an online component. In some cases it's still being treated as added value, but this is changing as media companies recognize the Internet's strength.

As the Internet absorbs more time in more households, traditional media need to bring the Internet (both wired and unwired Web-enabled technology) into their offline world to prosper. Web appliances may not be new fangled toys after all, as time will tell. Meanwhile, access to the Web and the ability to engage the consumer in an interactive dialogue, with direct connections and immediate feedback, is essential to advertisers.

Advertisers still struggle with basic measurement and pricing issues. It may not be insurmountable but has the effect of preventing them from investing more readily in Web ads or, at the least, inhibits closing the buyer/seller communication gap..

As the Net expands, accountability becomes key to a successful marketing prOgram, and ROI the deciding factor in determining the media that do the best job. Reach and frequency, cost efficiency and gross impressions will be around, but become less important as truly actionable measures take over.

In the future, traditional media no longer can rely only on reaching passive audiences through broadcast or print products. The necessity of offering active participants an enticing choice that guarantees ad performance will be the basic requirement for survival.

Mr. Drexler is exec VP, Mediasmith, New York, and former chairman, TN Media and exec VP-worldwide media director, FCB Worldwide.

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