Magazine article ADWEEK

Command Performance: Are CMOs Happy with What They're Getting from Their Agencies and Media Partners? Mostly. but Chief Marketers Told Us What Else They Want. Here It Is, Step by Step

Magazine article ADWEEK

Command Performance: Are CMOs Happy with What They're Getting from Their Agencies and Media Partners? Mostly. but Chief Marketers Told Us What Else They Want. Here It Is, Step by Step

Article excerpt

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Not unlike an orchestra, in which every instrument must be in tune and synch or the whole thing sounds like a mess, the three-way partnership among brands, media companies and media agencies is one of delicacy and balance. And that's never been truer than it is today, when companies are striving to get the most out of their budgets and the media landscape--old and new--is cluttered with messages.

For chief marketing executives, these realities raise critical questions about what is and isn't working when it comes to their relationships with agencies and media partners--questions recently put to a select group of top-ranking marketing officials, the party in this triumvirate that controls the purse strings. They were asked to speak candidly, and they did.

The news is decidedly mixed. But one thing became crystal clear: To cut through the clutter, solutions are imperative, and the development of break-through techniques have been put at the very top of their agency to-do lists. But innovative ideas, more critical than ever, are far and few between.

The Innovation Gap

Some marketing executives devoted to newmedia campaigns say they face a unique challenge: publishers are less interested in the creation of novel ads than they are other content.

"Publishers generally seem to be more committed to developing innovative features for their Web sites and extensions like mobile than to developing innovative, effective ad products," says Jenny Howell, manager of interactive marketing at American Honda Motor. "The separation between the product managers who are creating new features for the Web sites and sales reps who are working with us to develop innovative advertising opportunities is often frustrating."

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She adds that one of the challenges for the two brands on which she's focused, Honda and Acura, is the increasing amount of time and effort required to create a successful interactive campaign. "It creates a lot more work for all involved--clients, agencies and media partners," Howell says. That's particularly true for her company, because it customizes almost every interactive campaign.

Not every advertiser resorts to as much customization of its campaigns as Honda. But they still clamor for new and more effective ways to get their messaging out. Laura Klauberg, vp, marketing at Unilever, says the problem is that agencies and media partners have yet to be a consistent source of innovation. While she sees this slowly changing--"We are getting more [breakthrough ideas] than we had in the past," she says--the company was far from satisfied.

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"Advertisers need to share their brand insights more readily," she says, "And media partners need to be more willing to share their programming assets in new and innovative ways that will engage consumers and cut through the clutter."

Which is why, for its 2009 upfront, Unilever tried something new. The consumer packaged goods giant is working with agency MindShare to brief its media partners on the company's key branding initiatives. The reason: You can't cook up more innovations for a brand if you don't understand what it's about or whom it's trying to reach.

Thus far, says Klauberg, the results are mixed, but the exercise appears to be worthwhile. "Some of our media partners came back with very creative ideas," Klauberg says. "Others did not."

Unilever is interested in ideas that go well beyond the standard formula of brand integration. "Our Bertolli commercial pod on CBS was a great example," Klauberg says. "We partnered with CBS talent to create a specific spot that featured our brand and promoted CBS programming at the same time."

Klauberg also gives high marks to a TV, radio, print and online campaign that ran during the fourth quarter of last year and was developed with ESPN. …

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