The quiet switch -- a series of meetings and informational presentations held for more than a year -- resulted in Kraft changing gears and putting print planning and buying together at Media Edge, within its newly beefed-up print media department. Previously the work was shared by Media Edge, Chicago-based Starcom USA and other agencies.
The move means Kraft has abandoned its traditional approach of organizing print buying around brands. Creative assignments for Kraft's estimated $800 million overall ad account are handled by a variety of agencies.
Now, to underscore its commitment to print advertising, Media Edge is launching the Print Edge, a separate shop-within-a-shop focusing specifically on magazine buying and planning for 2000, says Jeanne Tassaro, exec VP-director of print services at Media Edge.
Media Edge's 31-person print planning and buying department adds its new name this month. It is based in New York with a six-person office in Chicago, primarily to service Kraft. The move represents the first time Media Edge has had offices outside of New York; Print Edge's Chicago offices will be housed within sibling agency Y&R Advertising.
"Print Edge will serve our various brands in concert with the brand agencies for the most effective media planning," says Don Miceli, VP-media services at Kraft. "Previously planning was done at the different brand agencies. This system should provide better opportunities."
CAPITALIZING ON OPPORTUNITIES
"Print Edge, with its experience in the marketplace and its specific knowledge of brands, will be able to capitalize on integrated marketing opportunities across media companies," he says.
Industry experts say the tendency of the media universe to continue to splinter is causing print -- and magazines in particular -- to emerge as a distinctly specialized area within media buying shops. Increasingly, buying powerhouses are pushing hard to win media planning responsibilities as well, seeking to maximize efficiencies.
That logic clinched Kraft's decision to consolidate all of its media planning and a large share of its media buying at Media Edge, say observers.
"I don't know if it's a trend, but we're starting to see more situations where media planning is awarded to the media buying agency as well," says Arthur Anderson, managing partner of consultancy Morgan Anderson Consulting.
Ownership consolidation in the magazine industry, the growth of value-added deals and a premium market emerging for some titles are among the reasons buying space has become increasingly complicated. In addition, planning and buying have been emerging as distinct disciplines in every medium -- including magazines and newspapers.
"Buying print ads used to be the easiest thing, often assigned to junior people, but that's not the case now, with so much money going into print and everyone so concerned about the bottom line and results," Mr. Anderson says.
Increasingly, Media Edge is pushing to handle planning responsibilities along with the buying, says Ms. Tessaro, especially when a client has many products targeting the same audience through similar types of magazines.
"Kraft is a great example, because there are a lot of products targeting similar types of consumers through similar print channels; and handling the planning allows us to maximize our buying resources," Ms. Tessaro says.
Media Edge is not solely responsible for media planning on several key accounts where it is agency of record for media buying, including Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s magazine-buying assignment, Du Pont Co. and U.S. Postal Service. But Ms. Tessaro says she hopes her agency will pick up media planning duties in more areas this year.
"Obviously, we're not going after the planning across the board on all assignments where we have the buying account, but only where it's appropriate. Not every account involves advertising a range of similar products through similar magazine titles," she says.
LINKS ARE NEEDED
Despite Kraft's decision, some observers think housing media planning and buying under one roof is a bad idea.
"Creative strategy and media planning ought to be linked, leaving the media buying to a company that treats it as a brokerage function, otherwise there's no accountability," says Alfred Gedulgig, president of Gedulgig & Ferguson an East Coast-based agency consultancy.
"The agency that comes up with the creative strategy is responsible for moving the customer to action, and that hinges on the type of media used in a campaign. No one can plan that better than the creative agency," Mr. Gedulgig adds.
THINKING HAS CHANGED
Ms. Tessaro sees it differently.
"Clients have had to change their thinking in the last few years, realizing that a thoughtful negotiating force is needed to extract value from the magazine marketplace, and the process goes far beyond dollars," she says.
"Magazines themselves have become brands, and conglomerates own magazine groups," he adds. "Anyone can come up with a cookie-cutter media plan, but leading-edge media planning has become a multi-layered process demanding