Effective value-added is not free

There has been, and still is, confusion regarding the terms 'value-added' and 'media opportunities' in tv sponsorship and promotion.For the sake of this article, I will define 'media extensions' as anything negotiated beyond the traditional buy of airtime that tries to...

There has been, and still is, confusion regarding the terms ‘value-added’ and ‘media opportunities’ in tv sponsorship and promotion.

For the sake of this article, I will define ‘media extensions’ as anything negotiated beyond the traditional buy of airtime that tries to further the marketing objectives of, at least, the client and, sometimes, the client and the station.

Originally, the concept of value-added activity was more the domain of print and radio.

Now that tv is fragmenting into more targetted audiences, it offers potential as a marketing vehicle and should not be considered simply an advertising medium.

Advertisers now look to specialty channels such as tsn, ytv, Newsworld and MuchMusic for several reasons, among them:

- Lower out-of-pocket dollar investment.

Many clients in the u.s., and now in Canada, have secured sponsorship positions and executed promotions to achieve objectives that would carry formidable costs on the big networks – if indeed the opportunity were even there.

- More targetted audience.

Selected age demographics are usually more concentrated. Data compiled by PMB Print Measurement Bureau and Compusearch Market & Social Research can support claims of higher product use and appropriate psychographics.

- Environment-friendly

Because the programming is specific, high qualitative ratings are a given. This makes for a great environment, good image ‘rub-off,’ and more credibility for a client’s message.

While the book still has not been written on how specialty channels must be bought and sold, here are some observations made along the way:

1. Effective value-added is not free.

A promotion requires much more than booking the time and airing the spot.

At MuchMusic, a typical promotion would require our client marketing services manager, promotion supervisor, and an on-air promotions producer to create concepts and produce approved commercials, clear legal departments, administer the contest/program/event, and ensure editorial integration with programming.

2. Since there is far less promotional inventory, stations should restrict the number of client promotions, or risk diluting the impact for all parties.

Also, spots may have 10-minute separations, but stations should not run two competing client/station promotions at the same time.

Best efforts are made at MuchMusic to keep a one-month product exclusivity cushion before and after a major promotional activity.

This is especially important where supporting in-store point-of-purchase is involved.

3. Clients should resist the temptation to address short-term needs at the expense of long-term objectives.

We have seen clients propose poorly conceived promotions simply so they can tell the retailer there is national promotional support in order to gain preferred racking.

A bad value-added promotion is not better than no value-added. It can seriously hurt image and credibility with viewers, customers and the trade.

A few months back, the federal department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship asked us to create a promotion to profile its drive for the elimination of racism.

The department favored a partnership with the private sector. We saw clothing retailer Benetton as the perfect match.

The concept: viewers were asked to design an image for a T-shirt depicting ‘Your World Without Racism.’

The winning design was printed on T-shirts for distribution in Benetton outlets.

Proceeds went to the winners’ charity of choice. Entry forms were available at Benetton stores, with point-of-sale support and 30-second spots on MuchMusic.

For Multiculturalism, there were several benefits:

- Awareness for its campaign – a hard-to-reach target audience delivered.

- Great image rub-off with MuchMusic and Benetton.

- Support from the private sector.

- Exposure for the cabinet minister during live on-air presentation to the winner.

For Benetton:

- Increased awareness of stores and unity image.

- Favorable association with MuchMusic.

- Increased store traffic.

For MuchMusic:

- A viewer interactive, creative promotion focussed on a subject of extreme sociopolitical relevance to our viewers.

If I were asked by a marketer for advice on planning and executing promotions, I would offer the following suggestions:

- Talk early.

Broadcasters and clients should discuss respective needs, resource opportunities and timing during early planning periods rather than bring an already baked promotional pie to the table.

- Have focussed objectives.

Ask whether the promotion is designed to achieve awareness, image enhancement, retail sell-through or brandsell.

- Be open to fresh ideas.

Part of what makes this field so exciting is that it is new. There is plenty of opportunity to invent, experiment and build. MuchMusic has fun creating firsts for our advertisers every year.

- Be balanced in conception and evaluation.

Include creative minds and ‘quantifiers’ in both processes.

For example, a media buyer may not be the best exclusive judge of the promotional value, having neither the time or energy these ventures require.

- Respect the boundary between commercial and editorial.

Our credibility attracts both viewers and advertisers. Customers and viewers lose respect for both client and broadcaster when a station’s editorial integrity is sacrificed.

David Kirkwood is director of sales and marketing at Toronto-based specialty network MuchMusic.