Let your audience determine your media

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The new year is almost upon us. It's time for new thinking relating to consumers, advertisers and media. For that we turn to respected analyst Jim Nail, Forrester Research veteran and now chief strategy and marketing officer of Cymfony Inc., a media monitoring and benchmarking service in Watertown, MA.

According to Mr. Nail, there are three types of consumers today. The younger consumers under 24 are living their life on MySpace, YouTube and other social media. It's not certain that they're entirely ignoring traditional media. We'll find out in about five years as they get out of school and move into the real work environment.

The middle group, consumers ages 25-35, are equally comfortable in both traditional and new media. Study how they use each medium and in what combination to see how the media world will evolve.

Finally, there's the 35-plus crowd. "We'll always have both feet firmly planted in the traditional media world and only adopt new media for very specific types of tasks and when there's a really compelling reason," Mr. Nail said.

What should advertisers do? Go back to that audience, Mr. Nail said. Which of those audiences are you trying to reach? Build the media plan, benefits and creative strategy specific to them. "Which means if you have a product that spans all of those consumer groups, you essentially need three marketing strategies," he said.

With the shift in control to the consumer, media are correct to be apprehensive. What are the chances of each medium? Television is here to stay, Mr. Nail said. "We've seen a lot of change in TV in the last couple of years, and the audience is more dispersed across TV, computer, iPod, but that viewing experience is still very compelling," he said.

Search marketing and optimization, too, are entrenched. Search is totally relevant to the consumer need at that moment. Social media is here to stay, as well. "The question is," Mr. Nail said, "is it a marketing medium or is it more about gaining insight into consumers? Because consumers will continue to create their own content and interact with each other in those networks."

E-mail, print and radio always have been somewhat niche media. They are likely to hold onto those niches. "What marketers are overlooking now is the underlying value of the relationships that those media have with the audience," Mr. Nail said. "Marketers will rediscover that, but it'll probably be a very difficult couple of years for those media."

Direct mail delivers a very specific kind of tactile experience that digital can't displace. It's shown remarkable resilience over the past five years.

Mr. Nail had some sensible advice for media. They need to be channel-agnostic. "The content owners are not selling pages in a magazine or time in a TV program," Mr. Nail said. "They're selling audiences' attention, and by having more of that attention in more channels, the advertisers will have to work through you to get the message they want delivered."

Any tips for the worried advertiser? Use the 70:20:10 rule.

"Seventy percent of your budget should go to the programs and media that you know absolutely work," Mr. Nail said. "Twenty percent is invested in those media in new programs and new ideas to test. And then the 10 percent is used to pilot a new emerging media. Because the world's changing so fast, you have to try these emerging media for your own brand to know whether it works or not."


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