When Media Specialization Becomes Liability

Inspired by one of last week’s OMMA panels, here’s the full text of my latest MediaPost column.  Evan  Brown’s comment in the MediaPost discussion forum represents precisely the sort of liability I’m talking about. And David Hawthorn calls that out.

When Media Specialization Becomes Liability
Posted September 28th, 2007 by Max Kalehoff

This week at OMMA I participated in the “emerging metrics” panel, moderated by David Smith of Mediasmith. David’s an extremely smart guy, and I have the utmost respect for him. His decision to probe new metrics in a practical, media-buying-and-planning campaign context was laudable, especially for an audience more in the mood for quick, actionable takeaways. But the more I thought about the parameters of our discussion, the more it became a problem to me.

The emerging metrics of consumer-generated media (CGM) – which I was representing – don’t always fit so neatly into conventional frameworks of stop-and-go media campaigns, or even ongoing media campaigns, for that matter.

To be sure, CGM metrics are invaluable in informing overall campaign strategy and measuring performance. We’re seeing these sorts of applications reshape the way advertising campaigns are done; Super Bowl campaigns are one such example. Additionally, CGM is evolving as a high-growth, important media platform for advertising purposes, and we need metrics to understand how to advertise on and around it.

But CGM metrics also present larger, strategic opportunities — opportunities that link inextricably to total customer experience, engagement and brand equity. In other words, while defined objectives of communications campaigns are important, the raw, truth-telling prowess of CGM metrics actually exposes the holistic, aggregate impact of experiential factors. These factors are directly tied to business processes and represent massive opportunities for customer connections.

For any industry, think about product, engineering, design, customer service or innovation. Those are business processes that impact experience and satisfaction, ultimately leading to advocacy, indifference or detraction. As we know, brand advocacy and detraction often manifest in CGM, the fastest growing source of information, and one of the most trusted.

So why am I underscoring this point in the context of an OMMA panel, a gathering of interactive marketing, media and advertising executives, as well as in this online column? Because CGM activities occurring online – the sweet spot where we dedicate our attention and professional lives – are emitting metrics and undeniable evidence that there are tremendous opportunities and vulnerabilities that media specialization overlooks. Those opportunities and vulnerabilities often are bigger than interactive line functions. They’re bigger than media. Bigger than CPMs. Bigger than recall. And bigger than clickthroughs.

All this forces one to ask: If you are a media or interactive marketing specialist, is it not your duty to extend beyond existing interactive and media silos and address CGM metrics for all they truly represent?

If interactive professionals don’t think more about the larger ramifications of brand health evident in CGM, then it’s likely other disciplines will. You can bet it will be the ones most linked to the business processes I described above.

The bottom line: interactive professionals can apply CGM metrics in media and campaign contexts, but they also must acknowledge bigger opportunities and vulnerabilities. Media specialization is important, but don’t let it thwart higher calling. Most importantly, don’t let it become a liability.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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