Is the New-Media Mix too Mixed?

Unfocused Nontraditional Media Efforts Can Waste Time, Money

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Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
I'm all for exploring new media. In fact, I've built my agency around it. But I do feel that, at times, the rush to place messages in nontraditional places in a flight from TV, newspaper, radio, magazines and billboards has gotten a little out of hand.

It's not the creative application/placement of the media that I question; rather, it's the ability to focus media dollars and make an impact for a clients' brand. Small agencies are tasked with doing more with less on a daily basis for our clients. We are also guardians of their precious marketing dollars (especially so in a recession). So when a new campaign is launched that has six or seven media vehicles, I wonder how well we are making an impact.

Sure, urinal cakes are a cool vehicle for an advertising message. So is the ceiling of a subway car (cleverly named a "Michelangelo"). The walls of a parking garage. Sidewalk chalk. Body paint. Motion-activated displays. Public relations stunts. I could go on. But you see where I'm going with this. There are untold new and emerging media vehicles out there. And advertisers and their agencies are quickly moving money to them. Question is: do they work? Has brand awareness increased commensurate with the marketing goal?

In an effort to prevent doing something new just for newness' sake, we need to take a time out and carefully evaluate where advertising and public relations is going. It's the lack of focus, more than anything, that I worry about. For example, if a client with a limited budget tries to reach college students by placing its marketing dollars in on-campus events, direct mail, online media, concert sponsorships and interactive outdoor ads, would that same client be better served by concentrating the advertising in just two media? Marketing plans that are a mile wide but an inch deep serve no one's best interests -- except for the various media companies.

Every week, Brownstein Group has media companies calling on us (and our media planning partners) and introducing us to their latest, innovative advertising vehicle. Some truly are smart. Most will add to media dilution.

So I propose that when we create new work, we carefully think through the various and sundry media options and not dive in and commit to a mix that is, frankly, too mixed. Better to breakthrough and generate results, eh? Here are a few guidelines to work with:
  • For media budgets under $2 million that must reach more than a local audience, apply the same discipline with the media choices that you do with the message. Keep them single-minded as best you can.

  • Own a medium. The fast-feeder, Chick-fil-A, has done this quite effectively by dominating outdoor advertising. On the other hand, if you want to reach 19-year-old, beer-drinking males, then a nationwide urinal-cake ad buy may make sense.

  • Resist the urge to be the first on a new advertising vehicle. If the vehicle is a strategic no-brainer, then by all means, do it. If not, there are no medals for being the first advertiser to try something. Often, there is just more waste.

  • Put metrics in place for measurement. That will force you to make the right decisions.
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