Why cross-media needs the hard sell

EMAP has its work cut out to prove its cross-media strategy will benefit clients. Critics warn consolidation of sectors will weaken specialist skills.

As consolidation in media ownership accelerates and TV audiences fragment, media owners are hunting for new ways to increase advertising revenue.

Cross-media selling – the bundling of different media formats such as TV, radio, print, and Internet into one package – offers advertisers several routes to reach their target market.

Media owners are restructuring their businesses and sales departments to implement the strategy – and some believe agencies should reassess their operations as well.

But will clients get value for money or are media owners forcing their hand?

Media group EMAP is to launch a dance music TV channel called Kiss Mix next year, combining its Kiss 100 radio brand and Mixmag magazine title (MW December 9). Kiss Mix will draw on both Kiss 100, Mixmag, EMAP’s Big City Network of radio stations and its Internet interests.

The move is the first sign of EMAP’s future strategy. Last month, the company initiated a major restructure by creating four operational networks – music, lifestyle, automotive and health.

Each network combines consumer and business magazines, radio and Internet products and advertisers will be offered packages across all media. The company believes this will increase its ad revenue by five per cent.

Tom Toumazis, former managing director of radio sales house EMAP On Air, has been charged with developing a cross-media ad sales department as director of Consumer advertising UK.

Toumazis says: “Agencies and clients are still configured by medium – TV, radio, press – but are increasingly looking at solutions across media boundaries.

“I’m not suggesting agencies reconfigure their businesses to suit ours, but they do increasingly have account heads who look at servicing clients across the board.”

He is clear about EMAP’s motivation for change – to create products to drive profits up.

And other media owners are following suit. BSkyB is restructuring its sales team to encourage clients to buy integrated TV, Internet, sponsorship and text campaigns. Head of agency sales Richard Hawking must convince agencies to buy into the idea.

Scottish Media Group, Scottish Radio Holdings, and IPC Magazines are all busy putting cross-media selling plans in place, and no doubt Carlton Communication/United News & Media will follow if the merger goes through.

Julie France, sales and marketing director of outdoor company More Group, believes EMAP’s appointment of Toumazis is a good move: “No media owner has done cross-selling successfully yet because it needs one person within the company to be responsible for making it happen.”

More Group’s parent company is Clear Channel International (CCI), the European arm of US media giant Clear Channel Communications. CCC owns poster, TV and radio stations in 32 countries and also holds 30 per cent of Jazz FM.

France says More Group has discussed selling across radio and outdoor: “Nescafé uses outdoor, so we could talk to it about sponsoring an appropriate slot on Jazz FM – not as a bolt-on but as a natural fit.”

But do client companies believe a cross-media strategy adds real value?

“Clients want the best media value from whatever vehicle. Cross-media has to be the right range of products at the right price giving the right communication,” says BBJ broadcast director Chris Boothby.

He says clients will embrace new ways of looking at media as competition in their markets increases and TV audiences fragment. France says media owners may also be worried about agencies seeking greater discounts for campaigns which span several media vehicles.

BBJ head of radio Tim McCabe believes media owners are becoming more skilled in putting together valuable cross-media packages, partly because they are hiring high-profile media agency staff.

But the accusation Boothby levels at media owners – that each sector is too entrenched to have yet made a success of cross-media selling – is also being made about media agencies.

France says: “There is a lot of resistance from agencies – they are very compartmentalised into TV or press-buying. It makes it difficult to bring cross-media campaigns together. How many people would you have to speak to?”

McCabe adds: “The complexity of, for example, TV buying, means specialist skills are still needed. But long term, media planners will have to understand all the options to give clients the best service.”

Most media observers agree that cross-selling will increase as the lines between different media – TV, radio and the Internet – blur. And if current media-ownership regulations remain, companies will look to acquisitions in new sectors as a means of expansion.

EMAP’s Toumazis believes his company can triumph where others have failed not least because the whole company and not just the sales department is being restructured to create “media-neutral” brands.

But, as EMAP will undoubtedly be about to find out, there will be a hefty pain barrier to break as media companies, agencies and clients attempt to move forward.

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