It was with some reluctance that I decided to start yet another segment of an article about media planning by saying, "the medium is the message." Still, this incredibly prescient adage graces my daily musings on the current state of media planning and strategy.
This statement has become so relevant that at the iBreakfast in NYC this past summer, I made the claim, "the media department is the new creative department" (I am going to pay for that one). The various channels with which a media strategist can deploy communications have become so great, and the visceral connections that can be created between human beings so powerful, I feel we need a new name for the media planner. The interactive industry has become mature to the point that we need to begin calling media planners what they have become: experience planners.
You may say to yourself, "The title, Experience Planner, sounds like it's suited for an interface developer or another competency not typically found in the media department of an agency." I would strongly disagree with this sentiment and ask you to consider the following scenario:
Your client comes to you with the usual two goals for an upcoming initiative
- increase sales
- build brand awareness and loyalty
For the media planner who does not take all media vehicles into consideration, this is almost impossible. The Experience Planner, on the other hand, will be ready and armed to conquer this task.
Let's say your client is Sears and they have goals of providing superior customer service while improving their multichannel retail capabilities. A typical banner buy alone may not accomplish all of these goals (even if rich media is used).
While the Media Planner sits sweating in his cubicle trying to solve this puzzle, our hero the Experience Planner emerges from his office with the following idea:
"Let's create an in-banner virtual world that is only served when the local Sears in the area is open. Strict geo-targeting will be necessary, but that is a cinch. Let's create our virtual world to be a replica of an actual Sears and populate the virtual store with images of products that are derived from a live XML feed based on the store's inventory. Let's then ask Sears' employees to login to that same virtual world and be prepared to answer questions when they are not helping customers in the real world. Coupon information can be sent via SMS to a consumer's mobile phone with further incentive to buy."
I admit it -- this type of experience is complex and will be painstakingly difficult to execute, but ask yourself, "how important is a positive consumer experience?"
The emergence of the optimization strategist
Consumer experience is extremely important no matter what your client's advertising objectives are. The campaign described in the last section will be difficult to execute; however the payoff could be huge! This out-of-the-box thinking is what makes a brand stand out above the rest. The example of the in-banner virtual world could allow Sears to engage and interact with its customers in a truly unique way. At the same time, this program possesses the power to drive the company's bottom line.
The questions still remains, though: "how do you target the right consumer as they interact with your brand in this new exciting environment? Once you have the funnel figured out how do you actualize it?"
Translating customer experience into an optimization strategy can be challenging.
As the traditional media planner sits at his or her cubicle scratching their head, the optimization strategist emerges.
I was thinking -- in order to effectively target consumers in our experience plan, we should embed a segmentation pixel into our banner ads. This will allow us to build a responder model within the virtual environment. This model will be based on consumer interaction and propensity to do things, such as download a coupon. As we dynamically build responder models, we will want to prescreen people who fit our ideal customer profile and target media at those individuals that fit the attributes common across the responders we have built.
Understanding your customer allows you to target media effectively, engage audiences and drive optimal performance. In order to understand your audience, you need to model them on several different attributes, such as IP and HTTP data, as well as contextual behavioral data. Taking a multivariate approach allows you to precisely target people who fit your ideal customer profile.
Admittedly this type of targeting is difficult to execute on the fly, which is why it may be essential to partner with a predictive marketing company whose tools have the ability to model users based on univariate data. I always say that any light segmentation is better than none at all. It would be exponentially more impactful to target travelers from 4 pm to 2 pm on a Saturday (if this is what your model looks like) than to target travel sites in a blanketed manner.
The world of interactive media is becoming increasingly complex. At the same time exciting new doors are being opened for marketers. The ability to create branded consumer experiences and optimize them on the fly to ensure these experiences remain relevant is unmatched in the history of marketing. The proper marriage of experience and optimization can generate more than dollar for dollar ROI; it can generate lasting brand equity.
We are not certain that the model outlined above is the only way an agency can be structured in order to realize the true potential of the interactive space. One thing we are certain of, though, is that agency structures need to change. We continually see inefficiencies in interactive marketing that are due to time honored structures that have simply become irrelevant. The goal of this article was to stimulate agency executives and challenge you to rethink agency structures. We hope we have been successful in our goal.