Arun Kumar | December 28, 2011
Fascination with channels or tactics is a key problem in advertising. Even today, charts are presented on how digital media have ramped up swiftly over the last 20 years as compared to TV in the ’50s and ’60s. The problem with these charts is that media channels get all the focus.
Communication planning, 360-degree plans, holistic planning…whichever term one would like to use…they have all come and gone. Yet we still talk of how Facebook or Google have launched a new channel or a new tactic. This myopia often produces activation ideas that may not be the best suited for a business objective or an audience.
The idea of optimizing for results across platforms or channels is not new; it has been around for as long as our fascination with channels has been. Yet the advertising or media industry has never gone beyond paying lip service to it. There are three core challenges that need to be addressed to enable true cross-channel optimization.
- The technology challenge. For any media planner, one of the first requirements would be to get good quality data coming in from multiple sources that is actionable. Book, bill, pay systems need to talk to syndicated data sources at a bare minimum. Steve Balmer, the Microsoft CEO, put it best when he said that the advertising industry has a software problem.It is not an insurmountable problem. If one looks at the digital ecosystem today, there are numerous companies that have come up with pieces of technology that sync well with others. An open source technology approach is sorely needed in the industry. Data flows have never been as precious as they are today.
- The process challenge. Fascination with channels produces vertical specialists. Whether in TV or in digital media, there are specialists now – a product of a belief that clients would pay more for specialist services. Integrating these diverse individuals and skillsets into one team is a task by itself.Removing their beliefs in their channels and making them truly channel agnostic is where the opportunity to better solutions lies. An agency’s practical approach and process by which it develops solutions becomes crucial. Team structures have to mirror the process, which is often not the case. The balance between specialists and generalists has to be rectified. And specialisms should no longer be narrow and restrictive.
- The inventory challenge. Having liquid inventory that can be bought in real time is a necessity, one that the market is beginning to develop. For the more mature media, it’s a long way from happening just yet, but in the more nimble and agile digital media, it’s a reality.If agencies have to survive and thrive in the future, they need to embrace the real-time era as quickly as possible. Legacy relationships with publishers and media owners should not drive the agenda. The more efficiencies that agencies can drive through the advertising system, the more likely they are to stave off margin pressure and deliver value to clients.
Cross-channel optimization in real time seems far fetched today just as exchanges with liquid pools of inventory did three years ago. When it becomes a reality across a giant part of advertising spend, it has the potential to impact all aspects of our industry. The sanctity of creative, volume, and rebate-focused media buying, tactic fixation as opposed to result-driven activation will all come to a head. The question remains on whether agencies will embrace this change along with their ecosystem partners or will be dragged kicking and screaming in to the new world.