Opinions Vary on New Media at Forum

OFF THE COAST OF THE HAMPTONS, NY — A workshop can get really interesting when one panelist defends an older but evolving medium, another cautions against a herd mentality and the third is all for change.

That summarized yesterday’s Marketing Forum discussion on emerging media and how to use them. The attendees, mostly marketers of consumer products and services, were much the better for the lack of consensus on emerging media’s place in marketing.

The Marketing Forum took place May 9 to today on board the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship.

“One person’s new media is somebody’s old media,” said Shelley Nandkeolyar, vice president of interactive marketing and ebusiness at The Home Depot Inc., Atlanta.

For some, new media include marketing over PDAs and cell phones. For another this means television advertising with a twist that yielded proven results. And there was the school of thought that considers the Internet both old and new media.

Nandkeolyar noted that the Internet a decade ago differed completely from where it is today. In 1994, it was an advertising and informational medium. Five years later, it took on a sales and e-commerce role. Today, it is an advertising and e-commerce channel.

“In the past 10 years, it has morphed differently and hyped differently from what the original promise was,” Nandkeolyar said.

Even today, there are different approaches to the Internet, varying degrees of acceptance and a lot of experimentation. And marketers continue to reinvent the wheel and pioneer online marketing.

But little doubt exists that online must be taken seriously, whether emerging or emerged. Proof that the channel is becoming mainstream: 14 percent of media consumption today is online.

So what does the Home Depot executive suggest?

“We’ve got to think of re-jigging our budgets,” Nandkeolyar said.

Scalability and availability are key issues. Other factors to consider in emerging media’s role in a marketing plan are metrics for measurability as well as testability and proof of concept. Also, set aside a small part of the budget for exploring new media.

Home Depot was the category laggard in this regard, and it was only last year that the nation’s No. 2 retailer let consumers buy home improvement products online. Today, the site at www.homedepot.com sells 2,000 appliances. The transactional site, Nandkeolyar noted, would have been ahead of its time in 1994 and even in 2000. The market now is more receptive to such big-ticket purchases online.

Home Depot’s site is part of a “Call, Click, Visit” strategy that links e-commerce with stores and the telephone channel. But e-commerce has helped.

“It’s compressed the purchase cycle,” Nandkeolyar said. “What took you 10 days you can now do it in two days. It’s cut down the awareness-to-consideration-to-purchase process.”

Home Depot is experimenting with giving PDAs to select professional buyers at its stores so they can pass orders directly to the pro desk at Home Depot for quicker pickup by the professional’s truck at the store. The program is live in 40 stores nationwide and may extend to others if Home Depot notices an incremental lift.

Gerard Broussard, senior partner and director of media analytics at Mindshare’s mOne, acknowledged the Internet as an important emerging media. Broadband’s growing penetration, the cell phone and the PDA’s role are also redefining marketing.

But television still works, he said, and always will have a place in the media plan. His tip for the assembled marketers regarding emerging media was simple.

“Take the new media and plot them against the old media,” he said.

What marketers shouldn’t do is rush into decisions without realizing the purpose of using new media. That cautionary note came from David Nathanson, partner and chief creative officer of Bezos/Nathanson Marketing Group.

Marketers must understand why the customer is disengaged from traditional media before they litter the landscape with ads across media channels, Nathanson said. Start with the idea instead, then think about the media channel. The new media were not replacing the old.

He tore into a Frito-Lay online promotion containing a theme of “If not now, when?” The colorful site reflected the potato chip maker’s effort to persuade its target audience to live life in the here and now. But the bag of chips was tucked away in a corner, largely obscured.

“Where is the brand idea?” Nathanson asked. “Without the idea, the medium is not the strategy. We’re potentially rushing to make decisions without realizing what we’re giving away. Simply being there because you’re going to miss somebody is not a good idea.”

He admired Burger King for the fast food chain’s use of viral marketing, particularly the successful Subservient Chicken site. Regardless of the technology or media, the idea was central, he stressed.

Nathanson reminded the audience of advice from the late Bill Bernbach, one of the most successful admen in his day and co-founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach, now DDB.

“Getting a product known isn’t the answer,” Bernbach once said. “Getting it wanted is the answer. Some of the best-known product names have failed.”

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