Marketers' Digital Plan? Destroy the Silo

Major Players in Industry Reject Specialist Approach at Ad Age Digital Confab

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NEW YORK ( -- Make your brand marketing useful to your consumers. Orient around the big idea. Measure everything. That such mainstream, macro-marketing concepts played starring roles at the inaugural Ad Age Digital Marketing Conference underscored the fact that digital can't exist in a media silo anymore -- but instead needs to be central to everything marketers and their agencies do.

Photo: Rohanna Mertens
Babs Rangaiah
Check out 'Ten lessons from the Ad Age Digital Marketing Conference'

Of course, theory and reality are not the same thing. Executives from chief marketing officers to brand managers to agency CEOs and chief creatives all extolled integration from the podium but reluctantly admitted far too little exists.

'Can't be that way anymore'
"We cannot have silos," said Babs Rangaiah, Unilever USA's director-media and entertainment, who highlighted how Dove used the internet to build on what was arguably the most envied big marketing idea of the year, its Campaign for Real Beauty. "We still have all the agencies and even our team, the brand team, is operating with these specialty guys in digital. It can't be that way anymore." He also charged planners to "have a better sense of the entire media landscape."

It's worth noting the conference was opened by a marketer who used online communities, viral video and user-generated content to sell soap. For Unilever, a tipping point in its digital strategy came in October 2005, when ABC put its TV content on iTunes and U.S. broadband penetration reached 55%. "We're still a company built around sight, sounds and motion," Mr. Rangaiah said -- not banner ads.

Jeffrey Glueck, CMO at Travelocity, spoke of how online and offline media cannot be separated. His experience has shown the more direct-response TV Travelocity buys, the more people search for the brand. And David Verklin, CEO of Carat Americas, got metaphorical, describing Carat's "web-first strategy" as a rake, pulling people to the web. "We're using offline media to drive traffic online," he said.

'A funny word'
Matt Freeman, worldwide CEO of Tribal DDB, pointed out that integration is not always as it seems. "Integration is a funny word," he said. "All it really means is: Who's in charge? Can you integrate -- or subjugate -- the best talent and still keep them on the business?"

He also suggested marketers not think of everything on the internet as a media buy. "Most of digital is free," he said. "We need to not just look at the paid media but free media and earned media." R/GA's North America Chief Creative Nick Law pointed out that media might be free but attention isn't. He pointed to the Dove example from earlier in the day. "The content was great, the creative was great. You have to ask the question, 'Why would people want to consume this?"' he said.

A continuing theme of the day was a focus on communities and the potential for building relationships. And some marketers might be surprised to see the communities that already exist online. Liz Vanzura, global director of advertising for Cadillac, said she found 300 Cadillac communities in Yahoo Groups and 1,500 YouTube videos tagged Cadillac when she went out to create "They were already there. We were just providing a unique forum where they could interact using video technology," she said.

Nike building relationships
Nike's digital efforts around its Nike + iPod product, which uses a device planted in a shoe to sync music to a jogger's run, opened up a similar pipe to the consumer.

"It used to be that whenever somebody got the Nike product, that was the end of the relationship," said Stefan Olander, global director-digital media at Nike. "We would do a lot of upfront marketing and advertising to get somebody intrigued to buy a Nike product, but once you bought it, it was bye-bye until next time came up. Nike Plus becomes the starting point of the relationship, and that's incredibly important for us. So when someone gets Nike Plus, you start interacting with the brand on a really regular basis." Half of the users of the product visit three times a week, he said.

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Matthew Creamer contributed to this report.
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