You’ve heard it before, but selling clients solutions to their marketing problems rather than a schedule of spots is still the way to go. The idea was reinforced at the MFM’s Media Outlook seminar. Another topic at the seminar was is the growing demand from advertisers for accountabilty — data that shows that their media buys are actually hitting their marks.
The problem-solution formula that has been so effective in advertising also works with selling ads to advertisers.
That was one of the key messages attendees took away from MFM’s recent Media Outlook 2010 seminar, which included insights from leading advertisers, analysts and media industry CFOs.
We use the notion of being a solutions provider so often that it may seem more like a cliché. However, industry data and examples of its effectiveness should reinforce its value as a mantra for our ad sales account representatives. That realization began to take root in one of the seminar’s first presentations, an outlook on ad spending from Magna Global’s chief forecaster Brian Weiser.
As part of the context for Magna Global’s outlook, Weiser reviewed the impact of technology and media consumption trends on advertisers. Given the growing number of alternatives that can offer greater measurement and effectiveness for the dollar, the question becomes why are traditional forms of media not being affected more adversely?
Weiser explained that part of the reason, which may be short-lived, is the absence of data. The mere presence of a medium is insufficient to enable advertising, Weiser said. Large enterprises have many operational requirements to consider before committing their ad dollars to a particular venue. For example, advertisers are more comfortable embracing a new medium when they have guidance that conforms with how they typically evaluate a media buy, such as benchmarking it against a familiar medium.
Our current economy adds to the need for greater accountability on a client’s marketing choices. This need for verification and performance increases advertiser demand for robust user data. In situations where advertisers don’t receive adequate data for assigning value to the ad buy, they are likely to rely on gut choices, which can result in choosing sub-scale media.
Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer for GroupM North America, confirmed this tendency toward advertising’s comfort foods like TV and radio despite the opportunity for more targeted forms of media that portend to offer a healthier buy. For the most part, the firm’s clients aren’t taking a chance on what they still consider experimental, which is making the traditional ad media business more resilient, Scanzoni finds.
In the near term, companies are focusing on modeling to see where they can get a better return on their ad spending investments. A number of clients have also shifted their local ad spending to national buys, believing they can get more bang for the buck from national TV, radio and digital media. Another reason for the shift: research is weaker on the local side, Scanzoni told seminar participants.
Session panelist Harry Hawks, EVP and CFO of Hearst Television, agreed with Scanzoni, giving the example of offering auto dealers a five-state ad buy rather than a market-specific proposal. “We have got to take a step back and not come from a product-centric approach, but become more consumer-centric,” he said.
Tom Peck, CFO for Daily News – U.S. News & World Report, provided several examples of “green shoots” portending an improvement in the economy. These success stories can also be viewed as potential marketing solutions for other businesses.
The medical and educational services sectors are two business categories where the Daily News has helped clients to meet their marketing goals. He said that special sections such as those developed for these clients may not work for all advertisers, but can be an opportunity to serve both readers and specific types of advertisers.
Hearst’s Harry Hawks is very proud of his stations’ creative solutions to client problems, which often involve leveraging local news leadership.
One example he cited was that of one station’s efforts to “humanize” a hospital’s state-of-the-art robotics unit. Working together, the station and the hospital were able to help the public become comfortable with this next step in hospital technology.
On the other side of the country, the Hearst station in Hawaii got behind a popular local initiative to seek canonization for Father Damien. Its news coverage and vignettes helped the station to attract significant new dollars from clients that wanted to be affiliated with the campaign and who might not have advertised otherwise. While I’m sure Hearst cannot take the credit, Father Damien was named Hawaii’s first saint.
Stations are also demonstrating their new media relevance by driving cross-platform media consumption. They can help to deliver the right segment of their on-air audience to Web sites that depend upon attracting the right user in order to optimize their e-marketing campaigns.
The value of this capability came through in a seminar presentation from Gene Cameron, vice president, auto marketing/media solutions at J.D. Power & Associates.
Auto manufacturers are shifting their attention away from supporting the local dealer’s television purchases and looking at opportunities for taking advantage of the growing trend in online auto shopping. Paid search has been one of the beneficiaries of the shift.
However, auto dealers are still looking for a more effective means to connect probable buyers with the Web site for the models they are likeliest to buy. This is particularly challenging because demographics alone do not differential specific model buyers. What separates the Honda buyer from the Lexus buyer is not age or gender.
Auto marketers want to get on the buyer’s consideration list before shopping starts. These days, buyers are likely to initiate their shopping online before venturing out to visit a dealer’s’ lot. So, manufacturers are looking for the best marketing solutions to help them reach their potential buyers before they’ve settled on a brand and model. Such solutions can include broadcast programming and cable network that synch up with the buyer’s profile; the important thing is that they are offered a solution, not an ad schedule.
According to Cameron’s statistics, automotive advertising is likely to heat up again in 2010. There are 18 major redesigns planned for 2010, as well as nine new entries scheduled for the first half of the year, followed by another 14 new entries slotted for the second half.
As I suggested in an earlier column, it’s clear that attracting the dollars auto marketers plan to spend next year is going to involve a lot more selling than order taking. And it presents a great opportunity to apply the advice from the Media Outlook 2010’s expert presenters and develop solutions that will resonate with the client by providing creative solutions and other forms of validation that will earn the sale.
For me, these presentations were an interesting counterpoint to conversations we are having at MFM. Like advertisers, our members need to justify the dollars they are investing in membership. Looking at it, we’ve realized that it’s not just what you know, but also who you know that makes you successful.
In advertising, having someone who will take the time to understand the client’s needs can make all the difference. With MFM, it’s the power of the network; it’s the opportunity to pick the brains of people like Harry Hawks, Tom Peck, Brian Weiser and Gene Cameron that keeps our members involved in their association.
Mary Collins is the president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association, a professional society addressing the diverse needs of the industry’s financial and business professionals. Her column appears here every other Friday.