'Outward-looking' strategy

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Rebranding of IDG corporate sales reflects growing number of ancillary programs Since IDG Communications introduced its social media marketing service Amplify in May, the company's sales executives have been huddling with their customers to gauge their reactions. While IDG's clients have gotten used to the idea of social media as a marketing vehicle, they are still seeking guidance on which direction it should take. IDG is betting the company's newly rebranded corporate sales unit, called IDG Strategic Marketing Services (SMS), will help to assuage clients' concerns about social media. The change was announced in September. “The problem with a name like "corporate sales' is that it reinforces that inward-looking approach,” said Matthew Yorke, president of SMS, and previously senior VP-corporate sales and marketing at IDG. “We're trying to position ourselves as to how we believe the world is evolving, which is much more of an outward-looking approach, and working with clients whereby we could be, in many cases, developing ideas or programs that may involve a very small piece of IDG media or none at all.” More than one-third of IDG Communications' revenue currently stems from programs and services that are ancillary to IDG media, such as Web design and hosting and social media, Yorke said. As part of the reorganization, Charles Lee was promoted to senior VP-strategic programs and custom solutions. Deidra Bodkin, previously VP-group media director of ZenithOptimedia, was named to the newly created position of VP-client services. Yorke said the rebranding will involve ramping up services offered by Amplify and the IDG TechNetwork, an online advertising network of 200-plus Web sites that was rolled out in May 2008. The network includes such destinations as GigaOM, a popular blog covering the technology sector, and Developer Shed Network, a portfolio of Web sites and online resources distributed by IDG rival Ziff Davis Enterprise. “Our view is that we have big, powerful brands; but there's a whole other world out there of huge numbers online,” Yorke said. “We want to be able to co-opt those audiences ... so even though we may not be driving revenue into 100% IDG-owned properties, we want to own that billing relationship with the client.” Yorke added that IDG is creating more ad campaigns that integrate social media into traditional banner units. For instance, a virtualization-themed ad unit runs on next to an article about virtualization. The ad also includes a poll asking readers a question that's relevant to the advertiser. Users select their answers, and a new ad automatically pops up, reflecting the community's answers. The ad unit also allows users to tweet their opinions, tweet links to related content or tweet about the poll. “Unlocking an individual's social graph, in theory, is free,” Yorke said. “But in practice, it's very complex and highly time consuming, which means clients will be looking to publishing partners with content, audience and social-media expertise [for] help in developing strategies and then executing those strategies.” IDG's rebranding illustrates a trend among traditional media companies that are starting to take on the functions of advertising agencies. Vance Publishing Corp., for example, recently announced that it will roll out its Vance Marketing Solutions, a digital marketing services business, at three upcoming trade shows. Meredith Integrated Marketing, the marketing and digital services unit for the “home and hearth” publisher, was named agency of record for Kraft Foods in 2008. “It's not so much media companies competing with agencies, but everybody trying to adapt to a rapidly changing media environment,” said David Rowe, VP-media director of b-to-b ad agency Doremus, which is currently working with IDG Amplify on a social-media campaign for its SonicWALL client. “The No. 1 question we're getting from clients is how to leverage social media. But it's much more difficult in b-to-b [than b-to-c] because messages from b-to-b companies can't be seen as too frivolous.” M
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