Digital Conference

Why Samsung Goes 'Culture Casting' When Deciding on Its Media Mix

CMO Santana: For Brands, the Choice Isn't Simply Between Traditional and Digital

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For mass brands, it's well known that traditional media alone can no longer pull a full marketing load. Not that the answer, alternatively, lies with the digital horse. As Samsung Chief Marketing Officer Ralph Santana explained during his keynote presentation this afternoon at Ad Age's Digital Conference, "the choice of these two binary choices is flawed." Marketers need to do away with the distinction between traditional and digital to embrace a seamless media landscape.

Ralph Santana Credit: Rob Tannenbaum

Samsung's approach looks for the intersection of a brand's DNA with contemporary cultural trends and values so as to engender culturally relevant approaches. Such an idea, which Samsung calls "culture casting," need mass sensibility, so by utilizing a mix of media platforms, it's possible to begin to target specific audiences accordingly using relevant tools.

Mr. Santana identified three key criteria for mass brands to find market success: broad reach, meaningful engagement and financial impact. Using this framework, he worked through the advantages and disadvantages of both traditional and digital media, demonstrating that Samsung's 2011 goal of moving 90 million units demands that carefully calibrated mix of meticulous science and inspired art.

Looking at traditional media, broad reach still delivers messages to mass audiences; Mr. Santana pointed to research that revealed 62% of media consumption in the U.S. last year was still of the traditional variety. In terms of meaningful engagement, however, interactivity with traditional media is limited, as viewers' attention is divided and avoidance becomes easier.

As for the financial impact of traditional media, "it's becoming increasingly difficult to justify levels of spend we make for traditional media based on [the] systems of measurement we have," Mr. Santana said.

Watch Samsung CMO Ralph Santana's keynote presentation.

Applying the same three criteria to digital media, broad reach is weak. Despite the emergence of certain platforms enabling mass access -- for example, the Zynga Facebook game "CityVille," with its 20.9 million daily active users, compared to "American Idol," the nation's most-watched TV show with 24 million weekly viewers -- for the most part, audiences remain isolated and the diversification and sheer number of platforms makes for a messy supply chain. When it comes to mobile, to get a mass message out, a marketer has to consider a variety of operating systems, such as Android or iOs. "Digital needs to work harder in this sense," admitted Mr. Santana.

Meaningful engagement fares better for digital, "but it still needs to work hard." Performance, Mr. Santana said, "is abysmal: Click-through rates are at most 0.1%." Ads on TV are ignored 14% of the time, but this looks rosy once compared with internet search ads, which are ignored 20% of the time, and internet banner ads, ignored a whopping 43%. "If I can't even get you to click on my ad and get masses to engage, this needs to work harder for me," he said.

In terms of financial impact, the picture is also far from simple. According to a BCG study conducted over the course of 2010 surveying 75 brands, every $1 invested in internet advertising led to a $1.85 return -- that's above trade, TV and print advertising. Considering the number of units attributed to that advertising, however, there's an inverse relationship, where online leads to lowest sales, and trade serves the biggest bang.

Ultimately for Samsung, a traditional approach still delivers the goods, but its value is diminished. Simultaneously, the digital horse has great promise, "but is not working hard enough for us," Mr. Santana acknowledged. That means marketers need to split their bets across all possible media platforms, without heeding an either-or approach.

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