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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Media Ownership

Clients as Media Owners

There’s a fault line running through the heart of so-called new marketing. As marketers start to blur the lines between products and services, as they narrowcast their most valuable customers, as they start to deliver experiences – they still talk as if media channels were something “out there” a commodity once bought by the yard but now bought more qualitatively. The penny hasn’t yet dropped that they themselves are media owners in their own right. With their own audience and the necessary information and motive to contact that audience. With content inside their organisations that customers would pay attention to and might even pay for.

Clients still employ agencies to sort out deals for them with media owners without ever thinking that perhaps bartering is in order. That as media owners themselves they have content and audiences that the media owner might like access to. Media owners don’t buy and sell to each other. They do deals and swap audiences and content. And they aggregate channels in order to reduce the costs of origination and distribution. Read the Entertainment Economy by Michael Wolff to see how the worlds of film, TV, radio and publishing have cannibalised each other. Why on earth go out and buy space on the open market – when you are buying at the position of the greatest disadvantage with bulk ordering being the only lever to bring the price down. Before any client considers promotional spending in the media they ought to consider what alliances they could use to make their spend go further.

Yes I’m talking about co branding but at a much more fundamental level. Most co-branding is short term promotion. It is switched off long before people become aware of the co-branding partnership – what it entails in terms of the values brought together and the value that is added. And there is little follow through. A BMW is placed in the latest Bond film. But where’s the follow up when the film comes out on pay per view TV – is there a promotional campaign attached – ask for a brochure and a follow up call and the film comes to you courtesy of BMW? What happens on digital TV – where’s the click through and what is the mechanic to profile the respondent and to qualify them for a test drive? Where is the campaign when the film comes out on rental and when it is available on retail? A single placement ought to be the precursor for activity lasting a full 2 years.

In this new world order clients would audit their own audiences and their own content. They would expect to produce their own programming/content and consider investing in channels to distribute it – channels other media owners would be interested in. They would invest in appropriate audience and content swaps using alliances with other client brands. They would still use media channels but would judge these by the same criteria they would apply to their strategic partnerships. And above all they would protect their audiences from over communication and communication that undermined their own editorial integrity.

Does this mean the writing on the wall for agencies? Not at all. Most clients rely heavily on their agencies because they make better deals, they work faster and they are better at navigating their way through the chaos of the media choices available. But of all the agencies – media agencies are best placed to help their clients evolve into client brands. They understand audiences and how to price them. They don’t need to capture an entire audience to measure it (unlike database marketers). They already manage 90% of promotional budget already on the slenderest of margins.
They have a vested interest in making budgets go further where creative agencies want to originate content about products ie add cost!

With media fragmentation rife, costs continuing to rise – it is only a matter of time before clients stop being incidental channel managers and begin to become full blown media owners themselves with an agenda to sell as well as buy.






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