Down the Rabbit Hole: A Fairy Tale of Media Silos

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Welcome to Wonderland. Here, our prospects and customers are as neatly organized as the departments of a typical marketing agency. Customers either watch television, view direct mail, use the Internet or read the Sunday newspaper. They consume only one media type and avoid all others like the plague.

In Wonderland, we hit our e-mail customers with an e-mail blast and our Sunday newspaper readers with an insert in their local paper. We know how much to spend on each because the markets are clearly segmented and sized.

Back here on Earth, however, consumers use many media formats. We know this because, as marketers, we talk endlessly about the choices consumers have for media consumption. After talking, we go back to work within our direct response television division, digital division or direct mail division.

If consumers can go so easily from a direct mail piece to a cable news program to a search box at their favorite portal, why is it so difficult for us on the agency and publisher side?

Part of the answer involves measurement. If a direct mail buy is to be measured as successful or not, one must measure the response rate of the direct mail campaign. After all, one can't manage what one can't measure. But what if the direct mail piece were for a more considered product like an expensive piece of exercise equipment? Today's consumer, whom we know to be a clever devil about media choices, may choose to validate some of the claims in the direct mail piece.

A consumer interested in a product or service increasingly goes online to do more research. One generally begins research on the Internet at a favorite search engine, a primary launching pad for further Web discovery. After conducting the research, the consumer may choose to fulfill that order online.

Herein lies the rub. The department that created the direct mail piece gets no credit for the sale. The same could be said for a consumer query that begins with a search and ends with a sale via a call center, given that the Web site failed to answer all of the consumer's questions about the product.

Search marketing increasingly is used as a proxy to measure overall advertising efficacy. Because of the media convergence we spoke of earlier, consumers have shown themselves to be somewhat predictable with their buying behavior. Create interest in your product or brand, and that interest will be turned into action via a rise in branded (and non-branded) search queries. This can be measured on the macro level by tools available or at the micro level by analyzing trends on your paid and organic search campaigns.

We need a safe first step if we understand that change happens slowly, and the industry could not support a revolutionary democratization of media channels.

One such first step, which some agencies are adopting, is that of data overlays. Simply overlaying search behavior data on the data from a direct mail campaign can reveal interesting (and actionable) findings. Such findings can reveal trends that show the influence of one media type on another. You may be surprised by the effect that your campaign is having on the guy two cubes over, who is seeing surprising spikes in sales that he is attributing to "seasonality" or his own "optimization strategies."

Or, we could always go back to Wonderland, where none of this stuff matters.

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