[Editor's Note: This article is a part of ADText.]
Read about the concept of brand in ADText.
A seller sends a message about a product or service to a consumer. Although this lies at the core of what transpires in the phenomenon we know as advertising, the actual process involves many more steps. It must begin with a company (or, more rarely, a person) who has something to sell. That company then hires an advertising agency to (1) help construct and (2) deliver its message to the potential consumers. Or, in the terminology of the business world, a client company hires an advertising agency to communicate its brand identity and selling propositions to potential consumers.
The story of how the client in conjunction with the agency delivers the message to potential consumers is the subject of this chapter. In fact, the history of modern advertising is a story about continually changing media technologies and the creation of messages for and adapted to these modes of communication. The story moves over the course of about 150 years—post-Civil War America to the present—through various stages of message delivery. It is a story that originates in messages delivered personally by sellers to one or a few consumers at a time, then of messages delivered to multitudes through mass media, and finally of messages tailored for and delivered to individual consumers through complex technologies. This fantastic and often ironic story is easily overlooked in thinking of advertising only as a process of sellers delivering messages to consumers.
2. Getting from There to Here
Table 1. A Schematic History of Advertising Media
Salesmanship. The schematic history of advertising media in Table 1 summarizes key aspects of different modes of delivering advertising messages. These modes are presented according to the historical stages in which they emerged. However, new modes of communicating with consumers do not simply replace older modes but exist together with them. This discussion focuses on the logic of each mode and compares it to other modes rather than attempting to assign specific time frames to the modes.
The first stage, which accounts for most of human history from humankind's earliest societies until well into the development of capitalism, is characterized by interpersonal communication between the seller and the buyer. Examples include such things as wine sellers offering free sips to passers by in the streets of medieval Europe, patent medicine salesmen standing on the street corners of 19th-century American towns and cities from New York to California proclaiming the virtues of their products to gaggles of onlookers, and rural farmers in local markets in contemporary Asia, South America, or Africa bartering their produce in exchange for the things they need. What characterizes all these situations—and a multitude of others like them—is face-to-face communication between sellers and buyers.
One or two other observations about salesmanship are also in order, although their significance will become clear in comparison with later developments. First, the communication process in salesmanship is interpersonal and spoken and does not depend on literacy of either party to work. Since most such transactions occur locally, they typically operate within language communities and not across linguistic borders.
The other noteworthy feature is the limited size of the audience. A seller delivers the message to either a single person or in some circumstances to a small group. However, really large numbers are impracticable in face-to-face communications.
Salesmanship in Print. The emergence of broadsides, newspapers, pamphlets, and other publications transforms the selling process. No longer is face-to-face messaging between sellers and buyers necessary, but the messages can be delivered in print. This Gutenberg-like revolution in marketing communications means that messages are no longer delivered and received instantaneously and that single messages can be delivered to much larger audiences. But it also means something else—namely, that potential consumers need to be able to read the message. This is especially true with the earlier messages of this sort because elaborate illustrations are only included much later in time. As complex illustrations are introduced, print ads gain limited potential for communicating to those who cannot read.
Another important feature that develops during the salesmanship-in-print stage is the fact that messages are no longer simply the words of the seller. The advertising agent comes on the scene in the latter 1800s and becomes a part of the advertising communications process first by assisting sellers in placing their messages in appropriate media (newspapers at first, and later magazines, billboards, etc.) and soon thereafter by assisting sellers in preparing the copy of their messages. The original service offered by advertising agents—namely, helping sellers place their messages in appropriate media outlets—remains the most enduring aspect of advertising even today.
Listen to an Ipana radio commercial.
Radio. The advent of radio as an advertising medium in America during the late 1920s transforms the process of sellers communicating with potential consumers by freeing it from its prior dependency on literacy. In addition to spoken appeals, radio occasions other changes in message form—most notably, the inclusion of jingles, music, and song. However, in terms of the evolution of advertising media, it is the freeing of advertising from a dependency on literacy that is radio's most significant departure from what preceded it.
Television. "Radio with pictures" not only fascinates the public when it becomes a mass communications medium after World War II. It also advances the technology of advertising communications but leaves the basic structure of a seller (with the help of an agent) delivering a selling message to potential consumers. Still free from any literacy requirement and able to reach vast audiences, television's innovations amount to enhancements of the communications process rather than a revolutionary transformation in how sellers communicate with potential consumers.
Cable and Videotape. Oddly enough, two technological developments during the TV era do transform the structure of advertising communications. By introducing many more channels to the lineup, cable weakens the domination of the dominant three networks and their monopoly on advertising communications. With cable, audiences become fragmented, messages become more targeted, and advertising communications become less of a hit-or-miss proposition.
The second revolutionary change comes with videotape for home use which ushers in a remarkable and only previously dreamed of possibility—the ability to shift viewing time to suit a viewer's schedule. As audiences self-select programming, advertisements linked to it can be targeted to those with particular habits and interests, making the advertising process more efficient. At the same time, this new technology gives consumers the ability to avoid advertising messages altogether by fast-forwarding through them.
The technologies of cable and videotape need to be viewed as evolutionary stages in the development of advertising communications because of the ways in which they break down the amalgamated audiences of the early years of TV and place significant control of the message delivery process in the hands of consumers for the first time. These trends continue and become even more elaborated in the next stage.
Internet. The emergence of the Internet (early 1990s) transforms advertising communications further by altering the relationship between seller and consumer. The previously mass-mediated messages of print, radio, and television continue to be mediated technologically, but the mass audiences of the previous stages are diminished to the point of single consumers receiving messages directly targeted to them. By tracking the surfing and buying patterns of consumers, advertisers are able to know much more precisely than ever before whether or not a viewer may be a potential consumer of a particular product. Then using the data, they can tailor such things as email, and banner and skyscraper ads. The Internet ironically reintroduces many of the features of the original interpersonal, face-to-face delivery of messages in seller/consumer communications.
As for literacy, the innovations of cable, videotape, and the Internet all require elements of verbal and technological literacy. Cable means that viewing television is no longer simply a matter of turning on the television set and switching between three channels. The almost simultaneous appearance of the remote control makes channel surfing and management of communications a possibility for consumers. However, it is the videotape recorder that introduces real technological challenges for consumers. The level of difficulty of programming videotape players often challenges the abilities of many consumers who need to go through several steps: setting beginning and ending times, selecting the channel, deciding on the quality of the recording to be made, etc.
Even more so, the Internet is predicated on basic computer literacy skills. However, once these skills are in place, they give the consumer unprecedented control over the content. Simultaneously, it gives advertisers the ability to target messages more specifically than ever, thereby increasing the efficiency of advertising communications.
3. Social Networking, Viral Advertising, and Consumer-Driven Content
The format of contemporary advertising breaks the mold of much of what has come before. By moving from the TV screen to the Internet, ads need not obey the conventions of 30-second spots nor be subjected to censors like NARB and CARU. They may instead appear on sellers' websites, in banners and skyscrapers, on YouTube, in video games, in a text message or just about anywhere. However, in the context of all that the Internet has to offer, they must cut through the clutter, draw consumers in and hold their attention because it is easier than ever to dismiss them with a stroke on the keyboard. An example of a successful Internet ad is the 2009 T-Mobile video shot in Liverpool Street station in London. Its wit, charm, and unpredictability makes it one of the most viewed videos of mid-2009.
Many contemporary advertising campaigns invite consumers to join social networks of like-minded consumers. In this way, consumers not only receive information from sellers, but by joining interactive sites they may make comments, give responses, and even disparage the sponsored brands. Although companies typically seek to manage these groups in order to achieve an overall positive spin, this form of communication can sometimes at times get out of hand and cause problems for the advertisers.
Read about "Real Beauty" in Advertising & Society Review (access through a subscribing library).
For example, the Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty invited women to go online and express themselves with regard to what they think beauty is. This resulted in more than 8 million visits to the site. People read or posted their own ideas about such topics as beauty, aging, fashion models, etc. The website—as well as the overall "Real Beauty" campaign—garnered support for the sponsoring company, Dove, which proposed that ordinary women are themselves beautiful and that it does not take being a fashion model to qualify as such.
This campaign, however, backfired when it was revealed in a New Yorker article that the photos of the "real women" of the campaign had been airbrushed. 12 The art director explained this as necessary to keep the skin tones of the models in the same range, but users of the "Real Beauty" website were quick to say they did not like it.
Another significant feature of contemporary communications between sellers and consumers is viral marketing. It is, most simply, a process that involves consumers passing messages on to other consumers by word of mouth or via the Internet. An example of a viral communication is the 2008 example of Where the Hell is Matt?, a video placed on YouTube by its maker, an "Average Joe" who was making digital shorts with a small camera. Many viewers, liking what they saw, told others about it and suggested they watch it. Because of its popularity, a company entered the process by offering to sponsor further videos by Matt Harding to which they would add their name as sponsor. Although the "ads" do not contain traditional selling messages, they function by producing content that consumers enjoy, watch, and ultimately associate with the sponsor.
To follow the story of Where the Hell is Matt?, watch the three video clips below. The first speaks for itself whereas the latter two comment on the process of making the original video and on the advertising process involved. Important conclusions here are: (1) videos like this one stretch the limits of advertising to the point where it seems as if nearly anything can serve as a marketing communication today, (2) it is more difficult than ever for viewers/consumers to distinguish between what is an ad and what is not, and (3) it is just as difficult to determine the truthfulness and accuracy of what they view online.
4. Rishad Tobaccowala on Getting the Message across Today
Rishad Tobaccowala is the CEO of Denuo, a Chicago-based media company, whose clients include established brands such as Hewlett-Packard, Nestlé Purina and Astra Zeneca as well as start-ups such as Daylife, Meebo and Glam Media. Tobaccowala has over 25 years of marketing and strategy experience across a wide spectrum of clients and companies. Denuo is part of the Publicis Groupe. More biographical details appear at the end of this unit.
Visit the homepage of Denuo.
WMO: How would you describe the range of available media today?
RT: The classic categories of print ads, TV commercials, radio, billboards and so on certainly don't apply nowadays. There have been three big changes during the past 15 to 20 years that have led to the present state of things. Although they didn't all happen at the same time, they do feed off each other. The first was the advent, about 25 years ago, of cable television. What cable did over time was to splinter television. It went from 15 to 100 plus channels. While you still had your favorite shows, the number of them doubled or tripled, thereby reducing the audience size for any one of them. Today's number one show—if it's fortunate—will get households in the double digits, that is 10% or so.
The second change came about primarily because of technology—technologies that allowed you to do odd things with your television. The remote control was the number one thing with regard to advertising. It meant you didn't have to get up to switch channels. Widespread remote control usage is really a phenomenon of the last 15 years. Then beginning 7 or 8 years ago, things like digital video recorders allowed you to skip commercials if you wanted to. Now, about a quarter of homes have these devices and the proportion is likely to rise in the next 2 or 3 years to about half the homes. Fragmentation and ad avoidance worked together to further change advertising media. On the one hand, you find fewer and fewer people watching any particular channel. On the other, those who are watching have found ways to skip what they don't want to see.
The third change is the emergence of digital and online media over the last 10 to 15 years. In this case it's been a combination of both distribution and devices. Cable and satellite are distribution changes, and TiVo and remotes are new devices. With digital and online, distribution and device feed off each other. So to a great extent the devices of today, say, for example the iPod, simply didn't exist 7 or 8 years ago. However, it has completely disrupted the music industry in just a few years. These new devices like iTunes, iPod, iBook, and so on—did not at first seem like media, but over a very short time they have become new media. Think about search engine marketing for example. Fifty percent of all online advertising dollars go into search engine marketing. People type in a word or phrase, and based on what they type, they get an advertising link next to it.
WMO: Is that the stuff on, say, the right-hand side of the Google search results?
RT: Right, and by the way, we bid for that space against other people. And based on how much we bid, how relevant it is, and how often it's clicked, our link goes up and down that list on the right hand side. Isn't that sort of a medium? More recently, people connect with each other everywhere in the world, utilizing social media. There are one-way social media like blogs, two-way connection devices like Facebook and MySpace, and very simple microblogging techniques like a Twitter. Are these things media or devices? In practice, they work together. You couldn't do a Twitter unless you had computers and phones and things like that. On the other hand, Facebook without digital photography and digital media would be a very unexciting place. So, the third change involves both distribution and device coming together to producing new media.
WMO: Is this a nightmare or a boon for advertising?
RT: It is without a doubt a nightmare for advertising, but in the mid- to long-run it is potentially a boon. It is definitely a boon for consumers now. Who has won the digital war? All of us have when we are home. Who is challenged by the digital war? All of us are when we're at work.
It's a nightmare today for a variety of reasons. First, it's harder and harder to reach audiences, because—if you thought TiVo and remote controls were a problem—people don't look at banners, they've started their own broadcasting, and they advertise themselves. It's hard to find people and hard to know how to allocate your dollars. And if you finally find them and allocate the dollars, the economics don't work because you are used to scale-based media that reach millions, not tens or hundreds of thousands of people. So if you find the people and figure out an economic way to reach them, then you also have to figure out what to say them. In effect, a 30-second commercial may not work in a Hulu, YouTube world.
WMO: Sounds as if we've reached a period in which instead of media just being the last stage of the advertising process—that is, something tacked on to advertising content to distribute it to relevant consumers, it seems that creative people are having to take media into greater consideration and to produce messages intended for particular environments.
RT: Yes. What we have in my unit here at Denuo is a service which we call Alchemy: Media Sensible Creative. The reason we speak of it this way is that in the old days you created advertising for known containers. And the containers were built on static distribution models, like 30-second spots or a printed page. Now what has to happen is that you don't build for containers, but you innovate as people change and redefine themselves in the ways they utilize media. You have to communicate to them in terms of how they use media. In old days we talked about one-way communication: I speak and you listen. Now it's not simply two-way—I speak and you speak back—as many people say it is. Rather, it's multi-way: I speak and you might take the message and give it to a friend or you might decide to speak to me before I even started to speak. So it's multiway confusion! All the basic tenets on which marketing was built—a distributive model, with few unit sizes, a model where consumers consumed and did not create or pass along —is becoming a smaller and smaller portion of the landscape. Anything that isn't electronic media is having a really hard time. Newspapers are the first to go and magazines will be next. It's starting to happen. The Condé Nasts, the Hearsts and the Time Warners are getting worked up. In the non-Western world, if you look at India, newspapers and magazines are still thriving, but over time as electronic media come in things will change there too. The reasons are similar to the reasons why you're doing ADText as an online rather than a printed book. Not only is it more efficacious but you can keep it evergreen and it's more conducive to learning. It's driven by the learner as much as it's driven by the teacher.
5. Tobaccowala on Using New Media Successfully
WMO: Which companies are doing the best jobs of adapting to these changes in marketing?
RT: There are many examples I could cite. The first one that comes to mind is Nike. They have Nike+. It's a combination of iPods and the Nike shoes. Nike recognized that when many people run, they also listen to music. So they looked for a way to integrate these activities. Nike+ not only allows you to listen easily and seamlessly, but it also measures how far you run. And what it will do is synch your running times and your music.
Nike has created a community where runners can compare their experiences with other people's. They can also learn about running trails in their neighborhoods and the songs that inspire people to run—and iTunes makes money here. So if you go to Nike+, you see a community brought together by Nike—runners comparing notes, talking about music, trails, the entire thing.
WMO: Is this what is meant by saying that things move out of the hands of the company and into the hands of consumers?
RT: Yes. Nike creates the community, and they provide the place for it. It has a Nike section for products and services. They're also listening to the voices on the website. Of course, they still do TV commercials as well.
WMO: Does listening to the voices on the site enable market research too?
RT: Yes, they can do market research. They can do everything from this one site, Nike+.
Another place that has been very successful is the Dell Ideastorm. Dell got into trouble a little while ago when they had a battery problem and the bloggers started writing about their Dells catching on fire. Their customer service was not set up to respond to things like irate bloggers. The customer service was set up to track packages and to help consumers install their computers. They'd missed the boat. There was a lot of noise and negative publicity. The bloggers were saying, "Don't buy Dells because they have this battery problem." So the company was doing advertising saying "Dell is cheap" and "Dell is great" and "Dell is fine." And across the blogosphere you had, "Dell catches on fire" and "Dell sucks" and "It's time to switch to Apple".
At some stage, Michael Dell himself got involved and asked, "What are we doing?" So they created the Dell Ideastorm, which allows consumers to talk about what they'd like to see done to improve Dell products and to imagine new Dell products and services. And everyone at Dell, even Michael Dell, spends something like an hour or two a week going through culling all of this, talking and engaging with customers.
WMO: This is about consumers creating the products in a sense.
RT: Yes, or giving the company a means of saying here's why we can't create a product or service like this: "It's a great idea but the economics don't work," or "There's a law against it." Or, "Yes, but we can only make 10,000 units, and we wouldn't make money that way."
There's also Allstate Insurance. They wanted to sell more car insurance. As everyone knows, one of the most critical, crisis moments of life is when their kid learns to drive. There's big trauma, big drama. There are two problems with it. The first is, obviously, their kid is actually driving. So they're worried. The second is that they realize their insurance rates will shoot through the roof. It's an emotional moment. So, Allstate wanted to figure out how to engage. In the old days, they'd find addresses of people who were born 18 or 16 years ago and send them direct mail or give away things at driving schools. They decided to do something a little different. One of the key problems with young people, along with suicide, happens to be auto accidents. So what they said was, "Let us try to figure out ways that people can connect with, or have a conversation between parent and child." The agency came up with the idea for a parent-teen driving contract—a contract about driving that both sides would take on. They could get the document online or send away for it. Allstate suggested to parents and their teenage children, "Why don't you all go through the contract and agree on things?" They did a lot of measurement and, for the first time after a massive part of this campaign, they saw driving deaths were down. They thought maybe they played a small role in that drop. For instance, they have a commercial with music and cars full of young people. The song is some "so long" song. It says that every year 5000 or 6000 teens leave their homes in their cars and never come back. A major rock star who had lost a friend to a driving accident saw this and wrote a variation on that song in dedication to his friend. He mentioned he'd seen the Allstate thing and put the thing on YouTube. When he released the song on iTunes, it became the most popular download for like three weeks. And it was believable. He'd contacted Allstate for permission, but made it clear he didn't work for them, that this had happened to a friend of his.
In Australia and New Zealand, Canon photography had a tagline: "Advanced Simplicity." 21 They wanted to get photographers to be their spokespeople. They sent to photographers a little box with ten simple things, and asked them to do photography based around those things. The contents in the box cost less than a dollar, like paper clips, balloons and things like that. They created a website where the photographers could place their digital pictures of these simple things. That became a massively successful campaign. They didn't tell people they had to use a Canon, but they left it up to each photographer. They just asked them to post their pictures on Canon's website. Then they used an advertising campaign asking people to go to the website showing some of the best photography. All this works together: positive word of mouth and commercials about what people did.
6. John Partilla on Linking Clients with Media
John Partilla is President of Global Media Group at Time Warner Inc., the division responsible for working with major clients to place their consumer communications in the most effective media from magazines like Sports Illustrated to CNN news shows to Warner movies. Prior to coming to Time Warner, Partilla was Founder and CEO of Brand Buzz media, a part of the WPP Group. More biographical details appear at the end of this unit.
Visit the homepage of Time Warner's Global Media Group.
WMO: When a client comes to you to say they'd like to use your media outlets as a place to communicate messages about their product, where do you start?
JP: That's a tricky question because Time Warner is an enterprise of such large scale. We have magazines, Internet, TV. We have a movie studio. We have HBO, which is subscription-based television and TNT and CNN on cable. So we have a lot of the elements that anyone could really need.
The first question most advertisers ask revolves around audience: "How large an audience can you pull together to reach my target group?" That's the first question that's asked, so it's less about "I want to buy a page in this magazine" or "I want to be on AOL." Then they ask about the media brands that comprise that audience. They want to know what kind of powerful media we have that can create affinity to the audience they're seeking. We're lucky to have powerful media brands in our enterprise to use for them.
For example, if a client like Nike comes in, the first question will be: "How big an audience do you have across sports in your enterprise?" And we'd say we can reach so many millions of consumers in their demographic through terrific media brands like Sports Illustrated, Turner Sports, AOL Sports, and so. Then they say, "Those are terrific brands and we get the audience reach we want through the media you've got. Those media are the right environments for our brand to be in." Then the discussion turns to another issue: "How can you uniquely activate your media brands and that audience size against our particular challenge? How do you differentiate us from our competitors? How can you help us win?" The conversation is more sophisticated than just, "How much media can we buy for what price?" These negotiations are very consultative. We work with the advertisers who are our clients and with their agency partners to craft and create interesting solutions for them.
WMO: It's interesting that you're using the word brand to refer to both what the client brings to the table and also what you have to offer as media outlets. In the example you just gave, Nike is a brand—but you also talked about CNN and Sports Illustrated as brands.
JP: We're very proud of the fact that our media are well known and valued by the public. Since the very beginning of this company when Henry Luce began publishing TIME Magazine, that brand stood for something important. There are many definitions of brand. I like to think of a brand as the margin that it creates beyond the core product value itself. So that pair of jeans or that type of soda or vodka or whatever is just worth so much. That's the tangible value. A strong brand brings additional intangible value that people are willing to pay for. That's the intangible driver and that's the brand value that broadens the equation by becoming the differentiator.
We always believe in not just producing programming content, but in producing top-quality content and brands that command the public's respect and interest. For example, Warner Bros. is a powerful brand with a lot of history associated with it. Writers, directors, and producers come to the studio because of what the Warner name will mean when their production is associated with it.
WMO: How much educating of your clients about all this do you have to do?
JP: Our clients are more knowledgeable today than ever before. They have to be, but they can't be experts in all things, and certainly rapidly changing media is one of them. That's where we try to bring our own expertise and knowledge by saying to them: "Here's the reach. Here's the way we can create modeling, both on the Internet and in increasingly sophisticated TV. Here's data we can capture. Here's how we can activate our media outlets in creative ways for you." We try to marry our expertise and our media with what they can do with our clients' expertise with their own brands and with the creative work their agencies do for them. This is how we generate effective sponsorship and commercial messages in the context of media content that the public wants.
WMO: Are there some clients that you can talk about?
JP: Unilever has come to us for a number of projects. Just last year it revolved around Wisk. They have a terrific platform that they created with their agencies that's called Go Ahead. Get Dirty. The notion is to encourage kids to play outside, to muck around, and to let moms know that getting dirty is not a problem because Wisk will take care of it. They wanted us to find a way to amplify that brand message using our resources. They didn't want to just run commercials. So, we created a social networking device on AOL and linked it to Sports Illustrated and Life magazines. The idea was to ask moms to send in the photos of their messy children. They could upload them in a simple way that didn't take a lot of time. Kids could see their messiest moments. The moms could have conversations with other moms about the dirt, activities and play, and tips from Wisk about what to do for grass stains, blood, mud, etc. There were also some virtual demos online. We worked with Unilever's ad agencies and media agencies to create a contest in which the messiest photos would be put in a real magazine, helping further spread knowledge about the product and brand Wisk. The finalists were featured on the inside covers of Sports Illustrated and Life.
The campaign was very customized against their platform (Get Dirty). It took all of us working together to pull it off—the client, their creative and media agencies, and our resources here at Time Warner.
In another campaign in 2008, we helped General Motors launch of the GMC Acadia, a vehicle specifically targeted to women. We didn't want to just do product placement on one of our shows—say, Ellen DeGeneres or Tyra Banks. We wanted to write a story narrative around the Acadia. So, we created a story in which Ellen had a contest going. The four women who won the contest would take a cross-country trip in the Acadia and blog about their adventures and be videotaped along the way. They started in New Orleans, Ellen's home town. As they drove all the way cross-country, Ellen would check in occasionally and put them on air. In Los Angeles, they drove onto the set, hopped out of the car, and met Ellen live. Each of the women won a GMC Acadia. The great thing about that experience was that it went far beyond simple product placement. It became a story narrative about the women's adventure at the same time it showed product demos. This is a good example of branded content. I like to use the word woven to explain the difference between branded content and product placement. If consumers feel like the product is woven into a storyline, then that's branded content. If they feel like the product is simply placed in some environment, that's just product placement. They're actually quite different from one another.
WMO: So what you're describing is a melding of the program content with the commercial message. It's much more than a Coke bottle sitting on a table in a movie, which is the kind product placement issue we're all familiar with. How does a strategy like the ones you've talked about come into being? It seems like they require more coordination between the writers and marketing people, but who starts first?
JP: The starting place is the advertiser or the marketers themselves. They come in with pretty clear views on their own business priorities and their paramount challenges. They know what they require that goes beyond the day-to-day buying and selling of media inventory or producing of commercials. The advertiser wants to be involved in the conversation about key strategic priorities, and they want their key agency partners involved in that conversation. They look to their media partners to create something couture, customized. The reason for all that trouble is that buying media alone doesn't necessarily help an advertiser stand out or win or differentiate in the marketplace. The ideal thing is to combine terrific commercials, terrific programs and terrific ideas with some very clever creative placement inside the media inventory.
WMO: How do you figure out the right media outlet or the right media mix for a client?
JP: We had a nice example with Home Depot about a year and half ago. They came to us and said that they wanted to focus on energy efficiency for new and existing homes. They asked us to think about how to tell their story. It was a complicated assignment because they have so many different suppliers and they wanted to give exposure to many different products as well as to their own expertise.
We came back to them with a proposal for a digital home online, powered by AOL where consumers could navigate through a show home, picking up tips in each of the rooms. We also used Real Simple magazine to talk about ways to be smart and energy efficient. Consumers could learn about different products and gather as much information as they were inclined to do—all within the organizing principle of a virtual show home.
This proved to be a very interesting, high-quality user experience on the web that talked about homes in general, told different product line stories, and gave consumers a terrifically immersive and engaging experience. I think it was very effective. The premise was simple: Let's help the consumer become more energy savvy. In doing this, we were able to demonstrate many of the products in a Home Depot store and provide a satisfying consumer experience. The whole thing was driven through the web, but we had advertised the site through TV, print ads, and online ads and were able to drive traffic to the site that way. All this was backed up by a CNNMoney segment talking about the value and importance of a home and the importance of keeping things in good repair and Real Simple giving tips for keeping the kitchen neat and organized.
WMO: What about the critics who will say that all this brings us to a new level of commercializing the programming in a more complete way that goes far beyond sponsorship or commercials?
JP: That's a great point and a frustration for many consumers out there. This is why we have to think of the current context of marketing communications as existing in a consumer-driven marketplace. We have to take our game up a notch because consumers have the ability to block and filter messages. And that would be fine if there were another way to pay for the content. If consumers are willing to pay on an "as-I-consume" basis, then maybe there isn't a need for commercial messaging in terms of the media marketplace. There will still be a need for advertisers who want to get their messages to potential consumers in order to sell their products.
Here's the thing. The Association of National Advertisers conducted a survey about a year ago and that showed over 70% of consumers preferring ad-supported content versus pay à la carte content. Consumers are used to that model and they understand someone has to pay for the skills required to build the content they want. We have a higher bar now, both in the media business and in advertising, to produce better work. You can't bore people into buying a product anymore. You can't intrude as easily in their lives with your commercial messaging because of the new technologies that are available. We're learning to lift the bar by creating more inviting, more compelling, and more engaging messaging.
WMO: You work with big advertisers and some of the best known media brands in the country and globally. What does everybody else do? What happens to the smaller advertiser who has to use something less expensive?
JP: It's been a great day for those folks too. Let's say there are two to three hundred advertisers that make up the bulk of US spending. And yes, the top 30 may be disproportional in size and spending, but the other 170 if you're talking about top 200 have more available to them than ever before though the digital technologies. All this new technology has done a funny thing. Ten years ago, you drowned out the top 3 or 4 competitors by sheer dint of your muscle and scale. Now, it's much easier for a smaller player to be heard. The creative use of technology has made things much more democratic by leveling the playing field to some degree.
Take our own brand CNN as an example. The Internet has provided new places to get news and information. Look at the Huffington Post which was brand new in the last two to three years. Look at the credibility and size of the audience that goes there. Also Wikipedia. Not to say that Huffington Post or Wikipedia has displaced CNN. CNN is still looked upon as a great brand, a trusted source for news, coverage, and insight. And we've been able to thrive in this new environment, but the new technologies have certainly created opportunities for brands that wouldn't exist at all or might have taken dozens of years to develop. These other brands used the new technologies to create themselves practically overnight.
7. Partilla on Advertising Becoming "Marketing Communications"
WMO: So here in a media company like Time Warner, how do you organize all of this? What kind of team works on something like the campaigns you described?
JP: Our global media group is a blend of people with marketing expertise, experts in media platforms, and a lot of people with creative expertise. The group is comprised of people who have various kinds of expertise—agency expertise, brand expertise, creative expertise, and media expertise.
WMO: Is this model of organization and the way this company works the wave of the future for conventional ad agencies? Are they going to have to become more like this?
JP: Yes, we're seeing a trend out there. Our company is trying to add creative and strategic services à la an agency, although we would never take one client on as an agency of record assignment because we work with everyone. However, as we add agency-like skills and expertise, we're also seeing agencies add more media-like expertise and content-like expertise and trying to become savvy in producing cheap content.
WMO: Is this what is meant when many people in the business say that advertising isn't the right term anymore, that we should talk instead about marketing communications?
JP: I think we're seeing that shift. When you say "ads" to people, they think of a television or a print ad. And you get so much more than that now. I think it is communications, but at the end of the day, we're enabling marketers to advertise and commercialize their products through various means of communications and creativity. If I haven't stressed this enough, it's a wonderful time to be in the business because of its complexity and fluidity and its pace of change. I think that the notion of consumers in control—more than ever before—and media environments that are becoming infinite in their offerings and choices as for what consumers can watch, whether on demand or on the web, really raises the bar to have strong brands that produce strong, quality content and that also have strong creative commercialization around that. You really have to have all those elements together.
8. Irwin Gotlieb on Media as the Driver of Advertising Communications
Irwin Gotlieb is the Global Chief Executive Officer of GroupM, the world's leading full service media investment management company. GroupM serves as the parent organization to WPP media agencies including MAXUS, MediaCom, Mediaedge:cia and MindShare. More biographical details appear at the end of this unit.
Visit the homepage of GroupM.
WMO: You've been called "the most important person on Madison Avenue today." How does it happen that that title goes to someone in media rather than some other part of advertising? Twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable that someone in media would be thought to be so important.
IG: I didn't think it was unthinkable!
WMO: But it wasn't a majority view at the time, was it?
WMO: Obviously. It has turned out that media seems to be where it's at today. How did that come to be?
IG: I can't take credit for all that.
WMO: But you control something like 16% of the placement of advertising in the world. That's a significant chunk of change.
IG: Let me tell you how we got to where we are today. First off, media went from a three-network environment to the kind of fragmentation and proliferation of channels that we have today. It didn't happen overnight, but it happened in stages. Advertising involves the creation of messages, the delivery of them, and the measurement of their effects. Over time it got more complicated to roll out media. With every new step technologically, things got more complicated. Creation hasn't gotten that much more complicated, but delivery and measurement have evolved significantly.
The second factor that moved us toward the present configuration of the business is that media wound up with the responsibility for almost all of the quantitative aspects of what used to be done at the old full-service advertising agency. Data wasn't cool, so it got handed off to those of us in media because we understood data. We knew how to crunch numbers, we could write computer programs, and so on.
The third thing that happened was that clients figured out—in the '60s just before I got into the business—that they needed to distribute their creative assignments across multiple agencies because they got a more constant flow of big ideas, great ideas, and better work when more people were involved. Many of the clients also realized that this division among agencies worked well for the creative but that it was counterproductive in terms of getting good deals on the cost of media. Most of them figured out that they got better deals if you put your media money in one place as opposed to giving it to 10 different companies to manage. 27
It didn't take long for some of the top advertisers like General Foods to realize that they couldn't have six different agencies running around representing them. They were stepping on each other and competing with each other for the same spots and driving the price up in the meantime. So, they made specific assignments like, "This agency—you do my prime-time; that agency—you do all my late night; and another agency—you do my daytime."
Here's what happened at the agency where I worked, Benton & Bowles (now DMB&B). We had two of the most media-centric clients in the world—Proctor & Gamble, and General Foods. We'd been doing media placement for Maxwell House (a General Foods brand) and Folgers (a P&G brand.) We didn't do the creative for either, and neither client had a problem about us working for the other to place media. However, when DMB&B won the Maxwell House business, Folgers had an issue with it. DMB&B clearly had a more substantial obligation to Maxwell House. The McManus Holding Company was created to resolve the conflict. DMB&B did creative work for Maxwell House and a separate operation, MediaVest, under the McManus umbrella handled the media.
Once those of us in the media operation realized how much scale we had and how much scale we built in the subsequent few years, we also realized that we were playing with a very small piece of the total picture. Then we began to expand the business science, practice and discipline. We got into econometrics, and market structure work, and basic questions like: How much should a client spend?, How do you optimize a portfolio of brands?, How do you determine how much money should be allocated to each brand in a client portfolio? How do you decide how much should be spent in each country and each region of the world?
Nobody else had done any of that work prior to that time. We brought discipline and perspective and developed a practice that had simply never existed previously. The scope of our work just grew and grew in line with the complexity, not only of the media landscape, but also of the total business landscape.
I think all this happened as well because of the culture of Benton & Bowles. Do you realize that Benton & Bowles was producing the P&G soap operas? To this day, if you look at a soap, you'll see the TeleVest logo on it. DMB&B created that in 1993. At the time it was As the World Turns, Guiding Light, Another World, Another World Texas and Edge of Night. All of them came out of our media organization. We made six to eight movies a year—made-for-television movies. Call of the Wild (1993) was one of the movies that we made for Kraft General Foods. It was called a "Kraft General Foods Premier Movie." When we did them for General Foods, we called them "General Foods Golden Showcase."
WMO: What was the advantage of making the movies?
WMO: Did these films include product placements?
IG: They didn't need to. The product placement was in educational outreach in the form of school reading programs and materials related to the movies. We didn't place products in the P&G soaps either. If someone was washing dishes, you better believe they used Dawn, but whatever position that bottle was put in, that's the position it was in. We neither hid it nor made an effort to show the label. We didn't need to.
WMO: So where do product placement and the merger of content differ?
IG: We created Extreme Makeover Home Edition. You might say that was totally product placement for Sears, but that's not right. It wasn't placement of products after the fact. This show was built around a concept of integration. We put AT&T in Who Wants to be a Millionaire? with "call a friend." When American Idol came in, we did it for Cingular (now AT&T) by using it for voting on the winner.
WMO: You weren't responsible for the Coke cups sitting on the table in front to the American Idol judges?
IG: To me, that's bullshit.
WMO: It gets the public concerned.
IG: And it's obnoxious. But to enable a voting mechanism through texting, that provides an actual utility, so it doesn't cross the line. We are really different in the way we do that stuff from the others. I'm not into product placement. That just comes out of the fact that when I got to Benton & Bowles we had a lot of programming responsibilities. We grew them over the years that I was there. When I came here to Mindshare in 1999, it was a natural thing for us to do. I don't think anybody had the specific vision 30 years ago this is what was going to happen and that you ought to follow a particular path to get there. As things evolved there were some of us who figured out the opportunities and exploited them. And I'd like to think that we did it responsibly and without violating the integrity of the media we worked with.
9. Conclusion—The Future of Media
The ironic re-personalization of sales messages in the technologically driven media of today represent, in some ways, an ancient pattern of sellers communicating with consumers. However, the diverse contemporary media are also vastly different from what has come before. The Age of Information is truly upon us—in advertising and marketing as in other aspects of our lives. Just as the present would have been difficult to predict from the vantage of the high period of "salesmanship in print" (roughly, mid-1800s to circa 1930), the future of media is unimaginable today. The pace and fury of changes will shortly make the trends described here obsolete, only to be replaced by a newer way that sellers have found to communicate with and, as they say, "engage with consumers."
William M. O'Barr is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University where he has taught since 1969. He holds secondary appointments in the Departments of Sociology and English. He has been a visiting professor at Northwestern, Dalhousie, and Oxford. He has been recognized for his outstanding undergraduate teaching by both the Duke University Alumni Association and Trinity College (Duke University). His course Advertising and Society: Global Perspectives is one of Duke's most popular undergraduate courses. His seminars include Advertising and Masculinity, Children and Advertising, and The Language of Advertising.
He is author and co-author of ten books, including Culture and the Ad: Exploring Otherness in the World of Advertising, Rules versus Relationships, and Just Words: Law, Language, and Power. He has conducted anthropological research in Brazil, China, East Africa, India, Japan, and the US. In addition to his interest in social and cultural aspects of advertising, Professor O'Barr has researched law in a variety of cultural settings.
In 2000, he founded Advertising & Society Review and served as editor from 2000 to 2005. He is author of ADTextOnline.org, which will consist of 20 units published as supplements to A&SR.
Rishad Tobaccowala is the CEO of Denuo, a company that invents, inspires and instigates new forms of creativity to help brands meet challenges of modern marketplaces. Denuo helps its clients make "tomorrow tangible today". Denuo clients vary in size and life cycle from established leaders such as Hewlett-Packard, Nestlé Purina and Astra Zeneca to start-ups such as Daylife, Meebo and Glam Media. Denuo is part of Publicis Groupe.
Along with his Denuo role, Tobaccowala serves on the board of VivaKi, as the top innovation leader across its four brands of Starcom MediaVest Group, Zenith Optimedia, Digitas and Denuo.
Prior to his current roles, Tobaccowala served as the Chief Innovation Officer of Publicis Groupe Media and was the founder and President of SMG Next, the first and most comprehensive futures practice in the media industry. The development of SMG Next resulted in the launch of several successful practices for SMG including: SMG Play, the first company to leverage videogames as a marketing platform; word-of-mouth practice Reverb; and Digits, a leader in mobile marketing. The TV 2.0 practice he developed focuses on the future of consumer engagement with video marketing messages. Tobaccowala was also responsible for developing SMG Search, which specializes in leveraging search applications in new ways for leading spenders in the category, including General Motors.
Before conceptualizing SMG NEXT, Tobaccowala was president and founder of SMG IP, the digital and interactive arm of SMG. As such, he played a central role in shaping the agency, which was selected by Media magazine as both 2002 and 2004 Interactive Agency of The Year.
In 1993, Tobaccowala formed Leo Burnett's Interactive Marketing Group and between 1996 and 1999 served as the President of Giant Step, Leo's interactive agency which he helped profitably grow from 3 to 100 employees.
Tobaccowala has over 25 years of marketing and strategy experience across a wide spectrum of clients and companies. He was named by Business Week as one of the top business leaders in 2005 for his pioneering innovation, and TIME magazine once dubbed him one of five "Marketing Innovators." He was appointed to Advertising Age's Interactive Hall of Fame; named Adweek's 2000 Media All-Star for Interactive Media; dubbed OMMA magazine Media Strategist All-Star for 2005; and named one of 2005's Best Leaders by Business Week. In 2008 he was named an industry legend by Ad Color. He has written for (or been featured in) a host of news outlets, including Wired, Business Week, Fortune, Fast Company, MSNBC and Slate.
Tobaccowala is a much sought after speaker who has presented to several board of directors and senior leaderships of companies as diverse as Gucci Groupe, Nestlé and Reuters as well as events put together by Forbes, Microsoft, Fairchild and many others.
In addition to the VivaKi board, Tobaccowala serves on the board of directors of leading behavioral marketing firm Revenue Science, the next generation search company Snap (an Idealab Company), Recycle Bank, and the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. He also serves as an advisor to many start-ups such as Feeva and Visible Measures.
Tobaccowala holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Bombay and an M.B.A. from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago.
John Partilla leads the Global Media Group in its mission to partner more effectively with major Time Warner advertisers, and help drive the growth of advertising and marketing revenue across all of Time Warner's businesses. Partilla has redefined the way Time Warner assets are more strategically and creatively leveraged against client partners' strategic priorities, has grown the partner roster and increased revenue per partner.
Prior to overseeing the Global Media Group, Partilla was Founder & CEO of Brand Buzz, a $100mm billing creative solutions agency within the WPP Group. Additionally, he was EVP, Global Client Leader of Sony Electronics for Y&R. Over his Y&R tenure, he managed a varied roster of clients, and from 1997-1999 led Y&R's global business development efforts, resulting in over a billion dollars in topline revenue growth.
Irwin Gotlieb is the Global Chief Executive Officer of GroupM, the world's leading full service media investment management company. GroupM serves as the parent organization to WPP media agencies including MAXUS, MediaCom, Mediaedge:cia and MindShare. The focus of GroupM is the intelligent application of scale in innovation, services and trading for the benefit of clients and the GroupM companies.
In 2007, Irwin was named one of the media industry's top 25 most influential leaders by TV Week magazine, an honor that came only a few months after he was inducted into Broadcasting & Cable magazine's Hall of Fame. In 2006, New York magazine published "The Influentials," a roll call of the city's leading executives in a wide array of industries; Irwin's name was at the top of the list in the "Advertising" category."
Among his many achievements, Irwin is a three time Adweek/Mediaweek All Star, including a President's Award in 1997. He is also a double Advertising Age Media Maven honoree, and in February 2000 was named as the "Media Player of the Year" by Advertising Age – the only occasion that this award has been given. He appears regularly on industry panels and makes presentations to both national and international conferences covering the advertising, marketing, and media industries
Irwin joined joined MindShare Worldwide in September 1999 as Chairman and CEO. He launched MindShare North America by consolidating the media resources of JWT and Ogilvy, thus creating a global entity. In April 2003 WPP established GroupM and Irwin moved into his current role.
Prior to WPP he was President and CEO of MediaVest Worldwide, a company that he founded in December 1993 which included the former TeleVest and MediaVest units along with the unbundled media resources of DMB&B. He started his career in 1972 when he joined SSC&B, Inc., as Manager of Network Relations, becoming Vice President, Director of Network Operations before moving to Benton & Bowles.
1. Photo by Mark J. Sebastian. http://www.flickr.com/photos/markjsebastian/2948985814/
3. Bob Perlongo. Early American Advertisements (New York: Art Direction Book Co., 1985) 135.
12. Lauren Collins, "Pixel Perfect" The New Yorker, May 12, 2008. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/12/080512fa_fact_collins?currentPage=1
16. Courtesy SMVGroup.
21. For an explanation by a Canon executive of the meaning of the tagline, see http://www.canon.co.nz/about/press_room/story_711.html.
22. Courtesy AEF.
26. Courtesy Mindshare.
27. Gotlieb's point here emphasizes the enormous significance of concentrating media purchases while diversifying creative assignments. This development lies behind a major change in the nature of contemporary advertising and its likely future as new media companies attempt to take on more of the functions previously managed in full service advertising agencies.