In a panel at this morning's Ad Age Media Mavens conference, Mr. Palmer was one of six executives asked to answer the question, "If Santa were to bring you one thing that would help you understand how to reach consumers, what would you ask him for?"
Mr. Palmer wants a new model: "I believe we have an advertising service industry that has been built...as a manufacturing system for 30-second ads. And I really think the challenge for the industry and the challenge for us as a consumer-goods company is to rethink the way we work together. We've done that and are in the process of not starting with the idea, 'Are you going to build a base of 30-second ads?' and truly working with the full range of partners to understand the brand idea, to understand what the barriers are and to determine what the marketing idea is that is really going to drive execution. The way we work today with our service providers doesn't make it easier for us to do that. We have to get there to be competitive. Those who don't in the industry won't be around, I guess."
An Ask Jeeves for advertisers
Colleen Milway, global media director for Campbell Soup Co., was more hypothetical in her request: "A tool like Ask Jeeves where you could ask a consumer a question and get a response right away."
Juliet Corsinita, media director of Taco Bell, had a similar wish: a crystal ball.
Michelle Lynn, senior VP of Carat Insight, would like to see more education in research departments so that they can function as broader media analysts.
But Oswald Mendez, managing partner in integrated communications for Vidal Partnerships, had the most practical wish for Santa: "The power to be able to articulate all my ideas a little bit better."
Steve Kerho, Nissan's director-interactive marketing and media, wants more content that is entertaining and engaging so that automaker can be the one getting credit for bringing them that content.
Communication is challenge
Indeed, the challenge all six panelists seemed to be faced with when drumming up their "big ideas" was communication. Mr. Mendez's Vidal Partnerships, which caters to the Hispanic market, is looking to avoid speaking to consumers in Spanish on channels like Telemundo just for the sake of telling the same message en espa�ol. "We can't really isolate what we say to them from the mainstream media. They're completely related. [We need to improve] the ability to create competencies in speaking to them [in both places]."
Branded entertainment also helps the panelists accelerate the communication process by speaking directly to a specific initiative they're trying to promote. Ms. Corsinita pointed to the food chain's recent "Steal a Base, Steal a Taco" promotion at this year's World Series, which went far beyond some of the more passive TV integrations the brand has executed in the past. It also proved that TV is still the brand's go-to medium for immediate reach and awareness. "We want to explore more in the online space, but we're still struggling as an organization on how to best use it."
Nissan's Mr. Kerho took a similar approach to branded entertainment late last season when the carmaker executed a multiplatform ad buy for NBC's "Heroes" that included co-branded TV spots and an extensive in-show integration. "That consumer group can be very passive, so [branded entertainment] has got to be contextual. If they see the show is surrounded by ads, people know we've been a part of the program for a while and it's not just a one-off." Mr. Kerho has already seen a sizeable lift in recall and engagement from the promotion, which he said is key when doing these unique deals. "It can't be one-offs. With integrations, there has to be a lot of different touchpoints."
Mr. Palmer also faced a similar challenge in selling Huggies diapers to mothers of newborns. His solution was to tap into their emotions and need for information in order to stimulate a more engaged reaction. That's where every "big idea" originates. "You actually have to connect with consumers in a manner that drives new insights," he said.
Read about all of Ad Age's 2007 Media Mavens, here in this special report.