Technology driving media: ID Media’s Lynn Fantom

ID Media, the nation’s largest direct and interactive media services firm, celebrates its fifth anniversary this month. The Interpublic Group of Companies Inc.-owned agency plans and buys media for clients like American Express, Johnson & Johnson, HBO, L’Oreal Paris, Verizon and Nautilus from offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Lynn Fantom, chairman/CEO of ID Media, discusses trends shaping media, technology’s increasing role in the process and her shop’s unique selling proposition. She clearly believes television is not dead. DM News’ Mickey Alam Khan interviewed.

What has changed in the past five years?

The idea to create ID Media, as a direct response media company by merging [Draft and Initiative’s media] businesses within Interpublic, was born in 2001. That was the year Apple introduced the iPod, Google was first profitable and AOL bought Time Warner. A lot has changed, but as those examples illustrate, the main driver has been technology.
Technology has revolutionized the media business. It’s given consumers new entertainment options and new ways to control media and advertising consumption. It’s given advertisers exciting new venues, easier ways to buy and better ways to measure marketing effectiveness.

What shifts have you seen in media consumption habits and DR media buying?
It may surprise you, but research shows that, overall, consumers watch television as much or even more than they used to. Because of that, and continued advertiser interest, cable networks have continued to proliferate. In the past five years networks including Logo, Fit TV and NFL Network have launched and achieved subscriber bases of 25 million to 40 million.
The difference is consumers don’t watch in the same way they used to. With greater penetration of DVRs, the ability to skip ads is literally at their fingertips. This is a threat for advertisers, but it also serves as an opportunity for marketers who are enlightened and offer consumers information that is meaningful and relevant in an interactive format. How?
With enhanced TV ads, for example, a clickable icon can appear on the screen that leads to a microsite with more information. ID Media has conducted enhanced TV tests that demonstrate that this unit lifts response. If what an advertiser is offering is of value, the consumer will pause, check it out and then return to the program.
In this example TV is almost behaving as the Web, which obviously points to another major shift in media consumption habits in the past five years. And advertisers have shifted their spending in kind, with a phenomenal surge in search, but also increases in display advertising online. Five years ago, ID Media did virtually no online advertising. Today it is a significant portion of our business.
We have transferred the targeting, testing, optimization and negotiating disciplines of direct response advertising to the online environment and differentiated ID Media’s brand of transactional online advertising from the general interactive agencies.

What are some media trends you’re noting?
Everybody talks about the consumer in control … What people don’t talk about as much, but it’s equally true, is that marketers are exercising greater control over their media investments. Through data mining we know much more about consumer preferences and media behavior. We also rigorously examine performance metrics from all media and actively optimize the mix.
Most publicity about the consumer in control seems to position the consumer versus the marketer. When did we become adversaries? I love to shop. I insist on researching everything – real estate, investments, medical conditions. Today’s media options and marketing programs [allow] a far more symbiotic relationship between sellers and buyers, one that’s more respectful, less intrusive and mutually profitable.

What is the future of DR media buying?
Today, ID Media is the market maker in DRTV. Because of our volume, we know what our clients can afford to spend to derive the requisite ROI from each spot, and based on technology-enabled marketplace views, how sellers are valuing their inventory.
Technology will continue to give our planners and buyers even better insights into marketplace dynamics, a transparency we share with our clients. More and more media will follow the path of DRTV, search and radio into a more actively traded marketplace, with great scrutiny of value.
We believe that response television and online media will continue to grow, and that technology will blur some of the differences here. TV will look more like the Web, and the Web like TV. So, we already see opportunities with both enhanced television and broadband video. We also see tremendous potential as marketers continue to pair response television with the Web as a response channel.
We expect to enjoy enhanced ability to understand which networks create the most valuable online interactions, with increasing granularity in what defines the value of those interactions.
Technology will continue to enhance media that some marketers today even snub: for example, the print vehicles such as freestanding inserts and co-op inserts that we refer to as “promotional print.”
Already these vehicles let us target very finite geographies and further select within them, using 1,400 variables related to product usage, demographics, behavior and other factors such as creditworthiness. The power of this technology-driven targeting is proven in the strong ROI we see from these vehicles.
Technology also will continue to enhance consumers’ ability to interact with marketers who offer messages that intrigue them. We anticipate increasing use of mobile phones to respond to various types of advertising – say, radio or outdoor or packaging – through SMS. Marketers increasingly will advertise SMS codes as response mechanisms. They’ll be used for certain media the way 800 numbers and URLs have for TV.

What makes ID different from other agencies? What makes the media
business so difficult these days?
It’s the talent and experience that let us deliver the highest-level media plans, buys and client service. Never has the media business been so challenging and exciting, with so many options and such technology-derived rigors for evaluation and assessment. Today’s media business requires top talent.
Recently as we were preparing for a big new business pitch, the agency that asked us to partner with them said they had spoken to the client already and her first reaction was: “Oh, I know ID Media. I hear people really like working there.” It’s the culture of working at ID Media. It may be our weekly online media training programs that are open to everyone, or rotating monthly breakfasts where the CEO and president sit down with 12 staff members.
But perhaps the one thing that seems to make many people say, “I’m proud to work at ID Media,” is that we have an active community mission to care about people and families who have cancer. The mission includes fundraising, volunteerism and education. In December, for example, ID Media partnered with actress Elizabeth Berkley and raised over $35,000 for Gilda’s Club Worldwide, which was matched by a trustee. This is only one example of why people enjoy working at ID Media and what makes us what we are.

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