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The silver lining in recession-era buying

The silver lining in recession-era buying Jordan Greene

Did you ever think the recession could be a great time for you? There is a perfect storm quietly exploding in media right now. It is creating unique opportunities to drive brand awareness and purchases while stretching budgets considerably. Emerging to harness the storm is the Aware Marketer, a new type of smart leader who recognizes what the environment truly bears and the need to get in the flow of the consumer's daily life.

Environmental factors
The perfect storm is the culmination of three forces creating marketing opportunities from both a consumer engagement and economic standpoint. The first is the most visible, the recession. While its impact on the world of media is widely reported, what is missing is how it provides the baseline for new marketing opportunities to develop.

The second component is the dramatic growth of advertising options, brought on by the introduction and adoption of new technology and media. This, in turn, spawned a new landscape of disruption and confusion, introducing the human element to the equation. Together, these elements have frozen many brands and agencies in their advertising programs, with many blaming slashed budgets as the lone culprit. 

The truth is that the world of advertising has turned inside out, and made many buyers uncomfortable. We have the rise of new types of media, including social and mobile, and the reinventions and evolutions of existing platforms. Even the vernacular we use is wrong. "Online" really describes the AOL world of 1994, where PC email was a novelty. Now, people are connected to the internet constantly to consume and broadcast content on their mobile phones, TVs, as well as computers. Potentially sponsor-able media are constantly being created. They are just not where they used to be.

The winds of change are blowing
If TV advertising did not have enough challenges with DVRs and the competition of all sorts of cable networks, it now has to contend with services like YouTube and Hulu.  The world of print will never be the same again either. With cutbacks in ad budgets, newspapers are filing for bankruptcy at an alarming rate. Magazines of all sizes are just closing their doors outright, including Condé Nast's $100 million bet on the business genre with "Portfolio." It is undeniable that ad sales are down, as the once mighty "Sports Illustrated" now looks like a pamphlet. 

On the whole, magazines did not evolve. The model has been broken for some time, and these companies need to re-envision themselves as "content producers" and not primarily glossy paper publishers. The audience still wants the articles and columns, but they will consume them on their terms. And here is a great opportunity for the Aware Marketer. While the Aware Marketer's brand has bought print ads for the last 30 years, she recognizes the current environment, and instead of merely cutting buys, like so many others, she now negotiates to see what else she can get with her money. 

For example, magazines are still trying to determine their mobile ad strategies but are already distributing content through multiple mobile channels, including text messages, the mobile web, and applications. The Aware Marketer can use the publisher's keep-up-with-the-Joneses development to her advantage. Instead of getting just a one-page print ad for the usual $125,000 buy, she wants prime space on the publisher's mobile presence included, as well. She knows this is how customers consume content, and that the magazine sales rep may not even know that this inventory exists. 

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Lightning in a bottle
With the media now in place, the Aware Marketer can launch one-click interactive elements on the reader's phone to drive calls to call centers and traffic to mobile websites. A celebrity spokesperson's image and persona can be placed directly into the attentive audience's hands. For good measure, mobile calls to action can be included in the new print ad for a summer sweepstakes. To the consumer, it seems that the brand has effectively taken over the magazine's content.
The Aware Marketer can also use the magazine's desperation to sell traditional print ads to stretch the marketing budget and create additional consumer engagement points. Couple in the knowledge that many of these companies can not articulate an internal position on mobile, and buyers have a formidable advantage in negotiations.

So while the magazine endlessly debates the possibilities of the iPhone vs. Google Android, and who should sell the media and how, the Aware Marketer quietly and successfully buys the media for a fraction of its potential value (or possibly for nothing). That is the definition of a true buyer's market.

The best part is that anyone can be an Aware Marketer. It starts with flexibility of thought, and returning to the basics of Marketing 101. The key is to understand the market and how consumers engage the new media, while keeping a larger strategic vision. That is just smart integrated marketing, and the core impetus for any program before everything gets clouded with the consistent media noise. This approach prevents doing tactical, one-off buys that lead to little, and often force each buy to be labeled as experimental in order to avoid embarrassment (or worse). Instead, you set real business goals with a path to get there, and then are adaptable and nimble enough to take advantage of what the current environment will bear.
The market may be more segmented than before, but the expertise to understand each piece can be bought. Gaining objective counsel from advisors or consultants in particular media areas can help guide larger concepts and negotiations significantly and cost effectively. These relationships also unearth more unique opportunities and the vulnerabilities of specific ad platforms. Unfortunately, vendors themselves have a difficult time playing this role. They are never truly on the buyer's side or, at minimum, objective, as they are ultimately responsible for their own sales targets. The collective ad budget cutbacks have made those thresholds incredibly difficult to achieve, and consequently push each vendor's bias to new levels.

So while your competition continues to sit still or slide backwards, you become the Aware Marketer of 2009 and move your brand ahead pragmatically. Otherwise, as a CEO who began to see what the new media could do for his brand said, "That leaves more for the rest of us." Recognize what is really available out there, and act upon it.  Budgets are more efficient now. Smart ideas are still smart. And consumer engagement matters more. Make this so-called recession your time.

Jordan Greene is principal/mobile media at Mella Media. 

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Jordan Greene has been on the forefront of the mobile industry for over a decade. At Mella Media, he brings hands-on mobile expertise and vast experience to his clients, enabling them to gain a significant advantage in the current global...

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