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October 18, 2005
A New Media World

We're halfway through the decade and what have we learned?

That consumers have more control now than ever before and that trend is no longer a trend but is our new reality. It seems that everywhere I turn, there is an article about the demise of advertising and marketing as we know it thanks, in part, to personal video recorders like TiVo or Sirius satellite radio.

Yes, we can all switch off a marketing message at a moment's notice. And yes, we've figured out how to tune out many of the over 3,000 messages that are aimed at the average consumer each day. But the mere fact that these new technologies exist and consumers are taking control of our lives, isn't a bad thing.

Let’s take a look back 20 years. No satellite radio, no TiVo. As marketers, we were using data and consumer insight to drive down to the core of what motivated consumers to act. We’d do our best to use that data to develop the most targeted print ad in the paper, the most relevant direct mail piece in your mailbox or the most appropriate brand-building TV commercial for the target audience.

Knowing what we know today, we were farther from hitting the bull’s eye than we ever thought. Our messages were targeted, for the most part. They were effective, usually. The ability to measure the success of our work and its effectiveness was there but it wasn't as instantaneous as it is today. It's that ability to have information delivered instantaneously and our messages tweaked mere minutes later that (combined with technology) has led us to the new media world that we're in today.

To succeed in this new world order, we have to rely on our decades of consumer insight and marketing expertise. I don't want to dismiss its importance. In fact, if we hadn't grown out of that data-driven seed, we wouldn't be so perfectly positioned to take the reins of these new and emerging trends.

I think it's safe to say that today, the line between general advertising and marketing services has been so blurred that it no longer exists. Clients are looking for agencies that can deliver media-neutral solutions that are seamless in execution. With general agencies adapting their business strategy to incorporate marketing services disciplines, and marketing services agencies weaving strategic branding elements into our programs, one must wonder who is in the best position to deliver the most seamless solutions to clients.

Agencies that have spent the past few decades developing measurable campaigns based on data and research, in my eyes, are in the sweet spot. After all, it's ROI that rules the world and without measurement, ROI becomes muddied water.

So with a new agency model and accountability ruling the day, new media now becomes the center of attention. This is the way we can reach consumers in the most effective and relevant way, without getting our messages ignored. At the very core of new media is giving the consumer control. Yes, that same control that we as marketers loved to flex just a decade or two ago.

New media (like digital signage and hypersonic sound) spark intrigue with consumers. They make them want more information. They capture their attention. This is the type of insight that results in messaging that "breaks through the clutter."

Take for example the United States Postal Service. In Post Offices across the country, improving customer satisfaction and changing the actual patterns of consumer behavior inside the various locations was a constant challenge. In response to long wait times, USPS deployed automated kiosks to many of its locations that allowed customers to purchase stamps and mail packages. Initially, customers continued to go into the Post Office and, as they had done for years, immediately line up for the counter. USPS had to change behavior and static signs weren't doing the trick.

This is where new media comes into play. The solution we developed for USPS was the Post Office Channel—a broadcast-quality digital network that was installed in Post Offices across the country. This network delivers content that entertains customers while they wait and directs them to the new automated kiosks right after they walk in the door—all from two plasma screens. The result was an impressive increase in customer satisfaction and an obvious change in consumer behavior within the select Post Offices.

This is just one example of how new media has been brought to life but it's at the very core of what we’re doing as agencies today. No longer can a general advertising agency focus solely on a 30-second spot or a direct marketing agency concentrate only on producing direct mail. To succeed, we must further blur the invisible line that has separated advertising and marketing services for years.

Clients are shifting their spending to agencies that can measurably move the sales needle and when necessary, make changes quickly and effectively based on data and research.

We've come a long way from the world of 20 years ago. We’re smarter and more strategic because of it. Technology isn't killing our industry, it’s changing it. And for those who are stuck in the old world of reaching consumers, it’s time to extricate yourselves.

New media is our new reality and that, combined with the traditional ways of reaching the consumer, is what clients crave.

So who's in the sweet spot now?

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Yvonne Furth oversees all agency operations for Draft Chicago. She joined the agency in 1981 as an Assistant Account Executive and quickly progressed through the agency ranks. Over the years, she has more than tripled the agency's size, bringing staff and billings to an all-time high.

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