Big-Brand Marketers Take Time, Care With New Initiatives

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CHICAGO - One thing rang loud and clear July 25 at a Marketer POV session at ad:tech Chicago: Big-brand marketers like Coca-Cola Co. and FedEx Corp. can't turn their marketing budgets on a dime.

That inability often is an issue for service providers or agencies trying to persuade marketers to allocate extra marketing dollars for emerging technologies. It gets worse when budgets are sought late into the fiscal year.

"The dollars are already committed each year to a predefined set of activities," said Karna Crawford, interactive brand manager at Coca-Cola, Atlanta.

The beverage giant looks at new technologies based on its own strategic objectives and how they are balanced with the new tactics.

Coca-Cola's longstanding sponsorship of the Olympics, football and NASCAR will continue. But even those efforts are done with a new twist. The company uses a combination of online games to attract the attention of its somewhat young audience.

Next week, for example, Coca-Cola will break a new PointRoll campaign for its Coke Classic drink to deliver trivia to online consumers. The process is automatic, with time- and contextually-relevant trivia.

"Interactive is an absolutely critical element in the marketing mix," Ms. Crawford said.

FedEx similarly is pre-committed to sponsorships it strikes that resonate with its brand values. Also, the courier is the fourth largest airline nationwide. So it has to file three-, five-, seven- and 10-year plans with the Federal Aviation Authority.

The purchase of photocopy chain Kinko's and its transformation into FedEx Kinko's led the Memphis, TN-based company to spend considerable sums on marketing.

That spend is over and above other marketing overtures like the NASCAR sponsorship and naming rights to FedEx Field in Washington, DC, where the NFL's Redskins play. The company in January will launch the FedEx Cup, a 35-tournament PGA Tour for golf professionals.

Such a focus on events and traditional marketing doesn't mean FedEx doesn't use online marketing.

The company has a steady relationship with longtime agency BBDO. It relies on BBDO's Atmosphere interactive arm to spearhead efforts like the "Slingshot" campaign that lets users click, drag, drop and dispatch items in a virtual FedEx box to friends and family.

That online campaign is reflective of FedEx's delivery attributes, offering brand association and a halo effect.

"Demonstrably it's going to show how you can send every day items to people," said Steve Pacheco, director of advertising at FedEx.

Interestingly, Coca-Cola and FedEx's approach to ROI is not what one would expect.

Coca-Cola, for instance, claims to have sophisticated measurement standards for sales and non-sales metrics. The company does not itself use tools so in vogue with smaller firms.

"We do not use a media dashboard," Ms. Crawford said. "We use [media agency] Starcom MediaVest."

For FedEx, immediate ROI is not what drives all its marketing.

"A lot of what we do is reminder advertising," Mr. Pacheco said.

Both FedEx and Coca-Cola keep a finger on the pulse of emerging technology. Agencies like Denuo and AKQA help the company in that endeavor.

In fact, Coca-Cola is looking for someone to fill a new post -- director of innovation and emerging media. This open position is for an executive who will make the hard decisions on what's going to turn into a promising technology and "what's a dud," Ms. Crawford said.

Technology plays a key role at FedEx. After all, the company spends $1 billion a year on technology. So it pays to know the company's predisposition.

"Anything that's technology-driven has a running head-start," Mr. Pacheco said.

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