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How to stop worrying and love integrated

How to stop worrying and love integrated Dean Donaldson

Each year, marketers divide their ad budgets across several media by earmarking advertising dollars for print, online, TV, and, increasingly, mobile. The allocation of budgets across channels is representative of a desire to reach people holistically by engaging several sensory touch points in what scientists call a "multimodal approach." From a marketing perspective, this shows a healthy trend in a consistency of messages flowing seamlessly between channels.

The most advanced marketing thinking to date has taken this inclusive approach -- for proof, look at recent Cannes winners, which serve as great examples of integrated transmedia storytelling. All would agree this organic movement is being driven by digital, and evidence suggests that the majority of marketers (about 85 percent) are now implementing cross-channel campaigns to varying degrees.

But to reach a level of branding and response that's credible for advertisers, we need to convey the validity of integrated campaigns. Measurement is the key ingredient that can both secure investment in future advertising while strengthening marketing strategies across the board.

In looking at how one medium influences another, we gain advanced insight into the media consumption of consumers and, ultimately, their path to conversion, whether that is online or in brick-and-mortar stores. Through cross-channel analysis, new strategies will be implemented that encompass the power of multiple media channels and start to align closely with actual consumer life cycles.

Much of the movement for integrated campaigns can be attributed to the pervasiveness of digital. If you look at the growth of online over the last 10 years, it has significantly enhanced the reach and frequency of campaigns by promoting real-time relevancy. The live insertion of ads and the recent addition of smart phones are taking advertising into the realm of the "personal" web, making consumers amenable to brand messages anytime and anywhere. A recent Adweek article, "Digital Channels Blur the Line," calls out a common misconception -- that online is for response and offline is for branding. Recent evidence proves this is no longer is the case.

Digital enhances other media, which then take on the dual role of branding and response within a single creative execution. Take a walk around Times Square and see how digital is replacing print in outdoor advertising and enhancing consumer engagement.

What we can predict is that as digital taps additional media, cross-channel strategies will fully enter the mainstream, and marketers will be able to leverage the impact channels have on one another.

For example, take QR codes, two-dimensional bar codes used for "quick response." Imagine the potential opportunities for mobile to drive response whenever a consumer passes a billboard or even looks at a print ad. No need to fire up your laptop -- it's taking the concept of "tear-and-share" to another level, wherever you are.

However, before we move too fast into a synergized market, we need to look at the current climate and what marketers wrestle with as they try to implement these cross-channel campaigns, or worse, shy away from venturing too far out of their strengths because of the perceived barriers to integration.

Today, marketers indicate they are already running cross-channel campaigns. A recent Eyeblaster survey polled 400 senior marketing executives and found that 22 percent believe all their campaigns are cross-channel. Meanwhile, 45 percent sometimes run multi-channel campaigns, but are seeing it happen more often, and 18 percent see the inherent benefits, but are not running cross-channel campaigns.

Although marketers are already running cross-channel campaigns and/or show desire to, there is a gap between the rollout of these campaigns and their measurement and true implementation. In a recent study, only 12 percent of marketers actually integrate performance data across multiple channels. Their major barriers to cross-channel success are:

  • Lack of suitable metrics to measure impact

  • Lack of case studies to prove effectiveness

  • Lack of confidence in the technology

Frustration levels are running high as the market sits between reality and expectations. Technology is not moving fast enough to meet advanced needs, and although the desire is there, some marketers lack a strong enough understanding of digital technology to regularly use its applications to truly integrate channels.

Cross-channel integration is uncharted territory, and until the region is mapped, many marketers will continue to go with what they know and revert back to existing techniques and siloed channels. Some agencies believe reporting across channels will only become required when the client sees the value. Others say it will come when analytics and numbers are easier to define, which seems to indicate already overburdened teams.

Steps to greater cross-channel adoption
Cross-channel advertising is about understanding the big picture. It's about seeing a concept truly mapped against identified campaign objectives and understanding how various media can work together to deliver the desired results and end goal. Modern psychology and neurophysiology have proven that the stimulation of multiple senses creates better remembrance factors, and is therefore needed to promote a more integrated approach to brand discovery.

Agencies are already making significant strides to move beyond siloed digital campaigns where search and display remain independent from one another. However, to truly claim a large stake in the ad market, take the following steps to cross-channel adoption.

Step 1: See the big picture. To implement strategies and revise media plans to reflect the way consumers engage with products, respond to brand messages, and react to digitally enabled media requires marketers to take a holistic, unified approach to advertising. It's critical that marketers have an understanding of each channel's role -- including online, TV, print, and mobile -- and the influence each has on the others.

Recent examples of brands utilizing such strategies to reach audiences include Pepsi's Refresh Everything campaign, where social media, banners, outdoor, and print were used to spread the refreshed brand message. Other great examples are recent Cannes award winners like Tourism Queensland's "The best job the world," and "The Great Schlep," a campaign to motivate a more mature Jewish population in Florida to vote for Obama. All are fine instances of integrated strategy.

Step 2: Use technology as part of cross-channel strategy. Technology must play a larger role in the deployment of multi-channel strategy and execution if we are going to fully utilize a larger media canvas. Many marketers have already tapped into this with search and display integration, using either Eyeblaster's Channel Connect for Search or Microsoft's Engagement Mapping.

That is just the start. Technology is going to become a crucial facilitator in driving a unified brand message across multiple mediums as the digital creep permeates even further into "traditional" media channels. Furthermore, it's going to produce insights and efficiencies sought by advertisers and agencies alike.

Step 3: Adopt new value/measurement systems. The next stage of advertising needs a new unified way to measure cross-channel effectiveness and simplify the administration of multi-channel campaigns. As more integrated strategies enter the marketing mix in greater quantities, a not-so-silent demand will be placed on technology partners to deploy better tools for implementation, deployment, integration, and measurement. Marketers need to adopt a new value system -- focused beyond GRPs and clicks -- that truly takes into account how media is consumed across channels against consumer life cycles.

These three steps will help drive the adoption rate of cross-channel integration. And as multi-channel strategies provide more accurate details on campaign performance, advertisers will see a greater potential for advertising.

A digital future
We are already seeing traditional channels become digitally enabled, from animated outdoor to the digital TV switchover. Even print has gone digital via e-book readers. This trend will continue to escalate, furthering the ability to foster both brand and response objectives while facilitating two-way communication between the advertiser and audience.

Digital is the key to linking channels together, and puts marketing in an entirely new playing field, letting them see the impact from one channel to the next. Marketers seem to agree, as they have identified three distinct phases of cross-channel integration:

Phase 1: Connecting obvious digital channels, such as display and search
Phase 2: The three-screen approach: linking laptop to mobile (spread of online across devices) or TV to laptop (display to search across devices)
Phase 3: TV to mobile (your new mini-laptop and interactive controller) and outdoor to mobile (QR codes, display, and search while out on the road)

If these phases seem equally futuristic, take note that around 50 percent of marketers are already trying to measure the first phase, while just shy of 25 percent are attempting to measure the second, and approximately 10 percent are trying to measure the third. This is today. Our new world is indeed digital, integrated and upon us.

Is it so farfetched to imagine consumers will be able to see an animated movie poster on a billboard, grab content to their mobile phones through a QR code, and share it with friends via mobile social media?

How about coming home and watching a movie trailer on TV that offers behind-the-scenes footage and character bios alongside star ratings and reviews, while at the same time you search for show times in your vicinity on your laptop and then download them to your phone's calendar, complete with interactive directions? It's all just about joining the dots and having the right technology to facilitate a two-way communication channel across channels.

Dean Donaldson is digital experience strategist at Eyeblaster.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Marketing strategist. Consumer evangelist. Digital futurologist. Dean Donaldson is a world-renowned global conspiracist who is passionate about driving creative technology to ensure personalised brand engagement progress across all media channels,...

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