Rising to the challenge of media fragmentation

As multi-channel media increases in popularity, ensuring that a campaign reaches its intended audience is more important than ever, says Neil Perkin

It is often said that standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards. Given how fast the world changes this is probably true. The recent news about multi-channel media overtaking their terrestrial rivals in the ratings was little surprise.

We live in a Starbucks media world after all, where range of choice has exploded to decaf-tall-skinny-latte proportions. Media where choice proliferates, such as satellite TV and magazines, is growing. For media planners, narrowcast is no longer a dirty word, and the industry’s fragmentation presents a real challenge.

Start talking about today’s media consumer and you end up using a lot of hyphens. They’re a media-blitzed, ad-cynical, time-poor, channel-flicking audience living in a fast-paced, attention-challenged world. The reality is that consumer behaviour has fundamentally changed. Consumers are in total control of what they want to watch and read and of the advertising they expose themselves to. They’re not only aware of commercial messages, they are aware of badly executed commercial messages.

There are two points that come out of this. The recent ITC Survey (The Public’s View 2002) again shows that consumers want to be entertained by advertising, but more of them than ever are annoyed by the poor quality or amount of it. Given this, using ad creativity that is not only good, but also relevant to the medium in which it is carried, is more important than ever. Brands have to work harder to get their messages across in a credible way to an increasingly ad-cynical audience.

The key here is to get your message across to that indefinable but often powerful relationship that already exists between the medium and its audience. Making the language, tone and feel fit the personality of the medium provides a shortcut for brands to connect with the audience at an emotional level. It may be more expensive to produce multiple creative treatments, but when it works it is highly successful – as brands such as Absolut Vodka discovered when applying this strategy to its magazine-led ad campaign.

The second point is that the importance of working closely with media owners has never been greater. Good media owners offer planners and clients not only a route to market, but insights into their audience and ideas about how best to connect with them. No one knows a media brand like the people who work on it. A magazine editor who has to write for an audience week-in week-out is effectively marketing their product.

My own company has pioneered research into effective magazine ad creative and new ways of using magazines to achieve standout and deliver clients’ messages effectively. But we’re not alone in offering added value through great insight and advice on how to reach audiences. Working with those who know their media best gives planners and clients access to the some of the most invaluable consultancy on how to connect with consumers.

Starbucks media world? Make mine a double espresso.

Neil Perkin is a corporate account director at IPC Media

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