Media is Dead.  We killed it. Here’s why:

Once, media channels were clearly defined. In today’s non-linear world, our clients’ best prospects both consume and produce content across a spectrum of channels. To address this, progressive marketing companies like Ames Scullin O’Haire now think in terms of a paid, owned and earned media world (or POEM for those in desperate need of another acronym).  Clients who don’t think in terms of POEM will soon be DOA.

The concept of POEM is simple to understand but complicated to execute effectively.

  • Paid – Brand Pays to Leverage a Channel
Owned – Channel a Brand Controls
Earned – When Customers (or the press) become the Channel
  • New forms of media are emerging everywhere—not just on the Internet (though most are, in some way, connecting back into it). Mobile devices, digital forms of traditional media, and completely new technologies, platforms and apps are transforming the environment daily. The number of different messages our clients’ best customers and prospects are exposed to have exploded (1,000-2,000 different messages per day by some counts).

To cut through this noise, good advertising must be unique, relevant, engaging to the desired audience and of the highest production quality. Advertising is now competing for share of mind; battling with direct competitors, non-direct competitors (others after the same target in a different category), with YouTube and MTV2 videos, and (alarmingly) with American Idol and Avatar. We also compete against emails, video games, Instant Messenger, DVRs and mobile phone calls from friends.

This cluttered environment has created reduced attention spans in people. Amateur videos have accelerated this phenomenon. Short pieces of content can make people famous (or infamous) overnight.  Another significant aspect of modern marketing communication is the necessity of participation. There has been a consistent progression from interaction to participation to social networking to content creation. The desire to create content and share it is neither small nor transitory. It is a permanent part of the progression and is quickly creating a boundary between “my media” and “your media.” Without question, the future will hold even more challenges and will make it more difficult to connect, convince and convert our clients’ prospects.

Transmedia Storytelling
To succeed in this difficult communications environment, we use a Transmedia Storytelling planning approach across multiple media channels. Our clients’ stories are developed in media as a non-linear brand narrative, mirroring how consumers both consume and contribute to media. Different media are used to communicate different, self-contained elements and build upon one another to tell the most applicable parts of the brand story. Moving through the story across media platforms engages the target audience with a depth of story that continuously works to convert a prospect to a customer.

The Death of Media Planning
As this world has evolved, it has caused a revolution in the media planning business. The marketplace has responded by creating a continuous series of silo’d specialists to respond to the rapid pace of change. When digital blew up, digital agencies were born. When search became the next big thing, search agencies were born. Need to retain customers? CRM agencies are born. Along with all these, mobile, gaming, apps and social need to be addressed, plus traditional local and national broadcast, OOH and newspaper. Media planning agencies popped up to address all these specialties, including the diversity market.

Clients began portioning business for each specialty to achieve maximum efficiencies and effectiveness. But the opposite happened.  The wish was that 10 agencies (or 10 different planners within one agency) would all work together as one big happy family solving the same challenge. Instead, a scrum for dollars ensued. The digital planner brought digital solutions. The search guy brought search solutions. All 10 different groups stressed that their specialty was THE solution to the client’s challenges (or at the very least their own P&L).
Soon, this fragmented, disconnected approach caused more problems than it solved. I’ve seen this happen repeatedly at agencies that own all these responsibilities for a client, or when the client has these responsibilities split between multiple agencies.

In the race to create specialists, the media business as a whole lost its way. While the idiosyncrasies of technologies and delivery techniques make the need for specialists a necessity, what today’s client really needs is a generalist.  Someone who understands the role each medium can play in solving a client’s problems. People who understand how to solve complex problems in a complex world.

A New Birth
So we’ve killed media.  In its place is a group of smart, talented, imaginative people who know how to engage our clients’ customers and prospects to connect, convince and convert. These people understand how to best use all the arrows in the quiver—when and how to deploy them, and when to leave them in the bag.  We call this group Consumer Engagement.
Their mission is to connect our communication with the right people at the right time in the best selling environment to engage the consumer and give the creative work the optimum chance of success.

Yes, we killed media, but don’t shed a tear. Consumer Engagement is a better way to ensure that spending becomes a profitable investment, not an expense.

Author:  Steve Harding, Media Director at Ames Scullin O’Haire.  Prior to joining the agency, Mr. Harding spent five years with MindShare in Atlanta as Managing Director. He was responsible for the United States Marine Corps and John Deere accounts and was part of a team that won five EFFIE s, a Gold AMY (Atlanta Marketer of the Year) and a Creative Media Award from MediaPost. Previously, Mr. Harding spent eight years with Initiative Media where his accounts included The Home Depot, Arby’s, AmSouth, Black Angus Restaurants, In-N-Out Burger, Balance Bar and Nortel.