Creative use has undermined strategy

The words 'value-added' first came to my attention as a broadcast concept when I entered the industry more than two years ago.It was, and still is to a great extent, used in the business like a packaged goods marketer uses short-term...

The words ‘value-added’ first came to my attention as a broadcast concept when I entered the industry more than two years ago.

It was, and still is to a great extent, used in the business like a packaged goods marketer uses short-term sales promotions: to stimulate trial and/or reward loyal customers.

In packaged goods marketing that means using tools such as bonus packs (for example, 30% more) and in-pack premiums.

In broadcasting, it could be anything from bonus traffic-generating contests complete with airtime, commercial production, consumer prizes and administration, to bonus ads in station-produced calendars.

The creative use of the value-added concept, however, has ultimately undermined its strategic reason for being.

Broadcasters have focussed on generating revenue over profit and positioned value-added as a long-term strategy rather than a short-term sales promotion.

The result is that many advertisers have come to expect and even demand bonus packs as a regular part of doing business.

To a premium-sensitive advertiser, no freebie means no sale.

To rectify this situation, there must be fundamental changes made by broadcasters and advertisers alike.

First, broadcasters will need to understand and integrate marketing, not value-added promotions, as an equal partner to existing management structures.

Marketing professionals that are brought to this traditionally production-driven industry will implement a strategy of creating products that have greater value to advertisers rather than selling commodity products packaged with valued freebies.

When Procter & Gamble introduced stand-up Crest, they were replacing a dispenser that consumers complained about with one that met their needs.

Where the marketing plan is executed properly, profit margins should not be negatively affected and sales volume should be enhanced.

This creates market share at a profit.

As broadcasters begin to look at their product beyond 15-, 30- and 60-second airtimes, they will discover a great range of product lines with various product mixes that will better meet the needs of more advertisers.

mctv is, to my knowledge, the only non-network broadcaster with a marketing department that includes research, public relations, advertising and promotion.

Our viewer and advertiser research have allowed us to begin to develop a full range of products that meet advertiser communication needs.

For example, we publish Northern Outlook, a quarterly newsletter for national advertisers which provides statistics about market conditions and information about communication products.

This vehicle supports our role as an expert in our region, and allows a marketer to acquire effective knowledge for effective communication.

We have created program features to meet the demand of local business for good news about the community.

Advertisers find programming that supports their company image, then choose to be more closely connected with that program or feature through sponsorship.

We have created educational program viewing guides for use in northern high schools where program sponsors reach an even more defined target group.

Traffic generating sales promotions are strategically tied with programming promotions to allow advertiser benefits at maintenance price levels.

Computer software such as Compusearch Market & Social Research allows advertisers to target dollars that skew to a specific program.

If the program has low ratings, it means great savings for the advertiser and a more balanced sale of inventory for the broadcaster.

These are just a few examples of how the broadcast product can be redefined to enhance advertiser and broadcaster profits.

But product development alone, without advertiser and agency support, will not allow for mutual benefit.

Advertisers and ad agencies have got to provide less of some things and more of others.

More feedback, more input, more objectives defined. Fewer restrictions, less tradition, less end-product demanded.

Advertisers that have taken the time to express product values may have to let go of traditional media buys to achieve trial of new products.

Some advertisers may try to squeeze prices in an effort to acquire two forms of communication products at the same price as one.

These advertisers will have to re-evaluate priorities, values or budgets.

Broadcasters are finally beginning to research customer needs. Advertisers that take the time to express them will be surprised at the creativity, flexibility and tv product contributions that only broadcasters have the knowledge to suggest.

If marketers listen, sharp broadcasters will meet the challenge. The tv industry is being shaken, redesigned and propelled to change by technology.

It is more essential now than it ever has been to avoid the dangers of lip-service marketing.

Sales and marketing, although equally important to a company’s success, are not the same thing. A promotions rep that reports to sales does not a marketing commitment make.

We do not hire dentists to mend our broken limbs. Broadcasters will need to have trained marketing professionals in key management positions if they expect to change attitudes that have been formed over decades of tradition.

Karen Thomson is marketing director at mctv, a cbc and ctv affiliate based in Sudbury, Ont. which broadcasts throughout northern Ontario and the Ottawa Valley.