Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Mix Doesn't Always Match

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Mix Doesn't Always Match

Article excerpt

Cross-media advertising can save brands money and hassle, but might not be the best approach.

As economic belts tighten, advertisers are looking with renewed vigour at getting the best from their media deals. Since the last recession, online has become a major medium - expected to overtake TV this year - and budgets are now substantial.

Encouraged by some agencies, advertisers are looking more closely at how cross-media dealing might create greater pricing efficiencies (procurement-speak for cheaper) as a growing number of media groups own properties that span both the traditional and digital worlds.

Amid all the hype about synergies and leverage, however, there are some real bear-traps for the unwary here, and some agendas that aren't altogether straightforward.

Let's look at some of the bear-traps. First, this is not a big market opportunity. There is actually little crossover between the top 10 traditional media operators and the top 10 in digital - the top-ranking traditional media owner in July, in traffic terms, was the Daily Mail, and that scrapes in at number 10.

The online display market is dominated by the big portals - MSN, Yahoo! and AOL, the smallest of which delivers twice the audience of the Mail's site. Sky might be a 500lb gorilla in the TV market, but it's number 14 online.

This raises a further consideration. When a media owner is selected to meet planning criteria arrived at for the offline property, there is often a mismatch online. The Telegraph's audience online is much younger than its print readership, Channel 4's is more upmarket than its viewers and a lot of The Guardian's online audience is in the US. So plans created for one medium can struggle to translate effectively to the other.

Then there is measurement. While TV is traded in share and ratings, online is traded in impressions, clicks and outcomes. Smart operators have been using rating points in online for years - it is a useful way of creating a point of comparison across media, as well as a sense of the scale of a campaign against audience size. The danger, though, is that the tail comes to wag the dog, as lowest-common-denominator traditional media metrics can replace more business-centric outcome measures in setting objectives.

Of course, there are positives. Editorial teams can be more effectively motivated, and publishers are often more willing to integrate commercial messages into their content. …

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