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Mad Men (and Women) Are Still Alive and Well

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Digital video is still hemmed in by a broadcast world.
Digital video is still hemmed in by a broadcast world.

The marketing world shook this week when Publicis Groupe and Omnicom Group announced the proposed formation of a mega-agency. Publicis chairman and CEO Maurice Lévy said that he and Omnicom CEO John Wren “conceived this merger to benefit our clients by bringing together the most comprehensive offering of analog and digital services.”  The pair may be more forward-thinking than most pundits have given them credit for, because—at least far as video advertising spots are concerned—analog still rules the day.

At the Cross-Media Video Summit convened by Nielsen in New York this week, George Hammer, VP and group director of media for Publicis' integrated marketing agency Digitas, was put on the spot.  Moderator and Digitas alumnus Ashley Swartz, now CEO of a video consulting company called Furious Minds, asked what Hammer's media split for a big new video marketing campaign would be. He hemmed and hawed.  Swartz badgered.  Finally, he caved under protest: 80% for TV, 20% for everything else.

The bottom line is that, though online video has been proved to be more transactional than broadcast, it is also amorphous.  While all things digital are said to be more measurable, it's not necessarily the case with online video. Precisely because the ability to measure is greater, the number of things that can be measured is greater, and standards are difficult to pin down.  And then there's human behavior (and by humans, we mean marketers here): People are more comfortable with what they're more comfortable with.

“The question is how does legacy business on TV make the shift and measure and monetize it? That's not settled, so [marketers] stick with what they understand and are familiar with, and who they trust,” said Peter Naylor, EVP of digital sales at NBC Universal. “In digital, we concentrate on moving advertisers into long form. Long form is like TV on the Web. They see that and say, ‘Oh, I get it.'”

Because online video can be presented in so many forms in so many ways—via websites, networks, aggregators—viable measurement standards could be years off. Todd Gordon, EVP of Magna Global at Interpublic Group, says the media unit has set a three-year target to reach a level of 50% automated buying.  Standing in Magna's way, however, is a clear evaluation strategy.

“Does an ad on a show or a site with heavy Twitter buzz work harder? We're not deep enough into it to draw a real connection,” Gordon admits. “We're looking at ways of how programmatic buying beats traditional, but we have to be able to measure incremental reach. That's what drives audience share.”

Panelist Barbara Singer, VP of advertiser insights and strategy at ESPN, said that she heard nary a mention of programmatic buying at a recent social and digital conference run by the Association of National Advertisers.  She thinks digital measurement is at a Goldilocks impasse.

“We need to know how many [videos]?  How often? How long? It's tough,” she remarked. “We have Big Data, but do we know who [viewers] are? We have single-source research, but that's not the answer either.  We need something else between the two, but what?”

The good news for online video is that its future does not appear to be tied to the fate of broadcast.  “People who use digital use more media in general. They don't cut TV,” Singer said. “Media mix is dependent upon the brand and the KPI.”

Despite his stated 80-20 ratio for TV and “other,” Hammer is bullish on online video. “People are signing up for this. There are more and more ways to optimize it,” he said. “Publicis research shows that when you give consumers a chance to choose, online video performs the best. But budgets are tight. There are not a lot of dollars for digital. You have to use what you have to create moments that people want to take part in.”

Asked whether NBC tosses digital placements in as sweeteners for big broadcast deals, Naylor responded emphatically in the negative. “We're very cautious about giving away digital,” he said. “Everything we do sets a precedent for the future, and we're pretty sure that, one day, the world is going to be served through an IP address.”

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