Madison & Vine flirt with the Valley

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Technology, painted in recent years as a marketing menace, must make the leap from villain to hero.

At Advertising Age's third annual Madison & Vine conference (more coverage on P. 49), marketers were implored to realize that there is a third partner in the solution to fragmentation and consumer control: "We need to recognize there's another person in our marital bed-technology. Let's rename our union Madison and Vine and Valley," said keynoter Geoffrey Frost, senior VP-chief marketing officer, Motorola.

Marketers have to realize that technology is enabling audiences to do "what they really want to do whenever, wherever," and that the way to meet that challenge is to create quality content that consumers will welcome into their mobile lives.

He added that he expected creative stars to emerge in the wireless arena just as David E. Kelley, Jerry Bruckheimer and Dick Wolf did in film and TV. "Imagine if what we pushed to the consumer was pulled," Mr. Frost said, "because it was not intrusive but invited and entertaining and great."

That notion was top-of-mind with Starbucks as the coffee chain moved into music with its deals with Hewlett-Packard for onsite CD burning and with Concord Records to co-produce the Grammy-winning Ray Charles record "Genius Loves Company." The CD sold 600,000 copies at Starbucks stores alone.

"We needed a signal from customers that we had permission to move into music," said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment and a panelist at the Madison & Vine conference. Digital delivery of entertainment will be key for Starbucks, Mr. Lombard said, as the chain considers eventually adding film to its offerings.

Advancing technology will give more scope to live events, further engaging consumers, said Bruce Eskowitz, president of Clear Channel Entertainment Properties. The company this summer will activate a wireless network at its venues so fans can do such things as text message requests to the band and download snippets from the performances almost immediately. Clear Channel hosts some 33,000 events a year.

the new currency

"It's about speed and timing and how you enhance the experience for the consumer," Mr. Eskowitz said. Live shows will be filmed for later TV and Web airings, DVD releases and other exposure. "It's not just about the event, but the extension of it," that technology will allow, he said.

Everything from magazine content to video games will increasingly be delivered to consumers via wireless networks, panelists said. Mr. Frost, who previewed a Motorola cellphone called the Rokr that acts like an iPod, said that bite-size bits of content will become the new currency.

Of course, all of the new data will have to be measurable, and properly integrated into broad campaigns. Much of the conference focused on these goals and on moving beyond the trial-and-error branded-entertainment projects of recent years to an era in which it is turned into a workable, measurable channel like more- established forms of marketing.

If there are no clearly stated goals up front, there can be no solid measure of success, panelists said. In general, the players are still grappling with how to gauge the return on investment for integration deals.

"We want to know if the partnership expanded our reach and helped us break through in places we wouldn't ordinarily be," said Anne Globe, head of promotions and consumer products at Dreamworks. Marketers have to be forceful in telling entertainment partners what they need, and Hollywood executives must live up to their promises on such key components as access to film footage for ad spots, Ms. Globe added.

Marketers still have a tough time navigating entertainment companies' often convoluted structures, where it's unclear who the decision makers are. Studios are trying to address that by moving toward a single point of contact for such deals.

Steve Tihanyi, General Motors Corp.'s general director-marketing alliances and regional operations, said the word "partnership" is used too loosely. He also said he takes exception to paying for ad time on TV, part of the production costs of some shows and integration fees on top. "It's not an endless supply of money, and we'll be very picky about the way we spend it."

The days are long gone when Home Depot executives were thrilled to see a billboard in the background of a TV show. The marketer recently made a multi-project deal with Mark Burnett for brand integration into a number of the producer's series. "It's critical to look for new and unique ways to reach the consumer," said John Costello, Home Depot's exec VP-marketing and merchandising and chief marketing officer. "As entertainment is a more important part of people's lives, there are opportunities to integrate in relevant ways."

going direct

Those brands without big ad budgets can still play the game, panelists said, because they could offer such things as customer loyalty or unique real estate for promotions. There's a growing trend of marketers going directly to Hollywood producers for brand integration into shows instead of bartering such deals through the networks. It's an ongoing hot-button issue, with network ad sales teams trying to retake control of the situation.

Everyone is still struggling with how to balance marketer needs with creative mandates. There have been good and bad examples of brand integration, panelists said. "Our industry has abused the process," said Jon Kamen, chairman-CEO of @radical.media. "The good idea has to come first, and then you see where you can attach a brand and sell it to an appropriate outlet."

"It all comes down to a great idea," said Katie Lacey, VP, Pepsi-Cola. The hotbed for integration will remain reality programming, but marketers and producers are increasingly putting deals together for scripted shows.

Branded entertainment isn't for everybody. "There's content envy on the part of clients who aren't in the game," said Irwin Gotlieb, CEO of Group M, "but some of them would have a hard time benefiting from brand integration."

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