The dynamics of paid, earned, owned (PEO) media have changed. Can you confidently say you know the distinctions of each media and that your ad dollars are working?
Digital brand-building can be confusing. Each of the PEO elements work together to create an extremely effective marketing plan that goes beyond individual campaigns and standard ad units to build lasting connections with consumers. PEO sounds simple, but there's a lack of understanding on how the elements work together, and how they're shaping the media-buying process.
What exactly is earned PEO?
Let's use a real brand --Victoria's Secret -- to illustrate the concept. Paid media is when Victoria's Secret buys rich media IAB ad units, ads on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and high-impact ad experiences on influential blogs.
Owned media is also pretty easy to grasp. With Victoriassecret.com, the PINK microsite, and its Facebook page, the brand has ownership and creative control over the look, feel, and the messaging.
In earned media, things can get fuzzy. At Halogen, our definition of earned media is exposure or distribution that a brand doesn't pay for directly. For example, if Victoria's Secret sends 100 fashion bloggers its new seamless T-shirt bra, any blog posts that review the bra count as earned media. If the company hosts a "Very Sexy" video contest that sends five couples to the sexiest destinations in the world, all of the videos that couples submit also count as earned media, including any subsequent tweets and Facebook updates about the contest.
Of course, it's easier to understand why Victoria's Secret has the potential for greater earned media than, say, Chevron, but for all brands, the same principles apply: Can you provide the consumer with enough value that they will engage and share their experiences with others?
So, earned media is free?
Wrong. Instead, it means the cost of earned media shifts from buying to creating content. A successful social marketer can then take advantage of existing networks and platforms to get that content shared, spread, and forwarded.
Earned media reallocates the capital -- what would have traditionally been ad spend -- into two areas:
- Content and creative production (i.e., what the brand wants to be consumed)
- Tools to leverage the existing platform (i.e., technology or operational investment)
But while there is cost associated with earned media, the investment in both content and the technology to leverage it is typically much lower than a paid media campaign. More importantly, the consumer is often being exposed to this branded content experience by a friend sharing it with them -- making earned media much more valuable than any standard ad banner.
Getting PEO to work together
The most sophisticated marketers are starting to understand that a good PEO strategy helps keep their brands top of mind and will streamline ad spending. See the graph below.
Owned media delivers steady branding capabilities, but the emotional impact (or passion) and interaction with users tends to be lower -- in part because fewer consumers are arriving at Brand.com's doorstep. For retailers, consumers are visiting the brand site at the end of the consideration process, so there is a good chance for some additional earned-media value, like a review or a Facebook "like." But for many Brand.com sites, it's safe to say that most consumers aren't telling friends how much they "love" the site.
Paid media comes in short bursts, or time spikes. These campaigns provide intensity, 100 percent message control, and great demographic and geographic targeting. These efforts are highly effective because they're cross-platform (on TV, online, and in-store), and it's right in the consumer's face, although they're not usually influential.
Earned media isn't new, but nowadays it's scalable, sustainable, and influential. Maintaining this earned media presence requires budget allocation, but it's more "management" than buying: creating an editorial calendar, monitoring the conversation starters, and consistent measurement (over months, not days).
If done right, paid media spikes can drive immediate results and even lead to a new level of earned media once the campaign is complete. Still, it requires the brand to make a real commitment to the earned component.
PEO reallocation is an investment
You might say that a successful PEO strategy is the new model for media buying and allocation. Brands that want to create conversations (and leverage them to drive sales) should deploy more dollars to ongoing earned media platforms, campaigns, and influencer management. Moving forward, expect to see some of the budget being shifted away from paid media to support these earned media efforts. In exchange, expect sharper, higher, targeted media spend spikes. Together, paid, earned, and owned media ultimately drive digital brand strategies to new levels.
Greg Shove is CEO for Halogen Media.
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