Special Report: Media Planning Challenge: What happens after the revolution?: Cairns: The more things change…

Strategy invited media planners to take a trip into the future where the revolutionary technologies of today have become just another part of the mix.For the past three years, we have invited media planners to develop extensive and detailed media plans...

Strategy invited media planners to take a trip into the future where the revolutionary technologies of today have become just another part of the mix.

For the past three years, we have invited media planners to develop extensive and detailed media plans for invented niche market products and services as a means of demonstrating creative media thinking.

Pizzazz Pizza, Executive Airlines and a value-added service for travellers called Body Guard were the subjects of our challenges in years past.

In a fresh twist on an established theme, this year we asked our media planner participants to picture what the media world will look like in the year 2005.

The objective was to give media people an opportunity to synthesize – and put into concrete form – a lot of the speculating they have already been doing about the fast-approaching new media universe.

We deliberately tried to keep the brief as simple as possible.

We asked them to look into the future – 10 years from now – and imagine what communications vehicles they might use to market a mass market, everyday product.

The product we selected was a tube of toothpaste.

We chose toothpaste because it is a product that will surely be needed even 10 years from now, and because it represents one of those classic mass market products that has depended on mass media to establish an identity and to differentiate itself in people’s minds.

It has also been a captive of traditional retail distribution outlets.

Here was the starting point from which we asked everyone to begin:

Imagine it is the year 2005.

You are the top planning executive responsible for a media/communications program for a toothcare product (known as toothpaste back in 1995).

It is mid-March and your client is beginning to budget for the coming fiscal year.

The client is not expecting to make any hard and fast decisions yet.

You have simply been asked to present an executive summary – a quick sketch, basically – of the communications tools, new and traditional, you are considering using for the coming year with respect to the toothcare product.

Tell us how you imagine this product will be getting its message to consumers 10 years from now.

You have about 750 words.

The report includes submissions from David Cairns and Company, Genesis Media, Initiative Media, Leo Burnett, McKim Media Group, Media Buying Services and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising.

The report continues to page 35.

David Cairns is president of David Cairns and Company, a Toronto-based media planning firm.

It’s 2005.

For the media planner of 1995, it would be tempting, and easy, to imagine a world of lunar settlements, telepathic messaging, wristwatch televisions, and an assortment of other futuristic novelties that may never be viable from an economic standpoint.

The marketer and communications planners of 2005 are facing a world that is in some ways completely different from what they have been trained for, yet there are many similarities.

Much of the challenge stems from issues that were evolving in the late twentieth century, but have only now grown to the point of affecting their plans.

The first reality is that the national debt has grown to a point where the government can no longer sustain the services of the 20th century.

In a country so long dependent on government spending to sustain economic growth, this has had huge consequences.

More costs are being passed on to consumers including pension, healthcare, employment and cultural programs.

Many smaller communities and poorer regions have downsized as government commitment to equalization has dwindled.

The second reality is that the resident population has aged.

With the government less able to provide healthcare and pensions, and fewer workers to absorb these costs, the gates are thrown open to allow higher immigration.

The country is no longer primarily Anglo-Saxon/French but a highly varied culture in which many school boards are teaching in non-primary languages, reflecting the ethnic backgrounds of their students.

The final reality is that the phenomenon of cocooning has increased to the point where fewer people venture out of their homes.

Technology offers everything in home through the television/computer, which is the centre of all household activities.

This is the Canada that the marketer of 2005 faces: a highly segmented and multicultural workforce supporting a large, older population through which technology and information travels at unprecedented speed.

What to do?

First, we must recognize that technology now allows us to speak on an individual basis to any consumer on an interactive, involved, personalized basis.

We know from central databases more about each person’s product usage and communications habits than ever before.

We can determine the actual purchase cycle for each household from actual store data and plan our communications messages accordingly.

Media has become ubiquitous. Advertising will speak to consumers everywhere they turn and address them on an individual basis.

Second, the information highway has fully emerged into home and office.

Over half the homes regularly use the Web for information on attractions, financial and shopping news, sales and services.

Dental and healthcare information is available for sponsorship, and our toothpaste client is an active participant in two-way distribution of information.

Third, recognize that the walls between programming and advertising have collapsed.

Advertisers no longer run 30 sec. commercials and book ad pages in newspapers and magazines – these have been replaced with extended programming far beyond the garish infomercial of the ’90s.

Individual marketers create programs and publications which entertain and delight while subtly selling products and services.

Independent producers create programming to marketers’ specifications for distribution through the media or for downloading into the home entertainment unit.

Many of these are based on a virtual reality system which allows each family member to follow individualized storylines, and the particular toothpaste message included is different – linked to the consumer’s age, tastes, family position, sex.

Through this virtual reality experience, the viewer tests the product, tastes and feels it, and experiences the sensation of using it.

If they desire, they can purchase it on the spot.

The sum of all this development is the opportunity to assemble a fully interactive, multimedia program providing personalized information through our own broadcast programming, tied to the individual’s usage patterns, overlaid with detailed information through the home computer.

An interesting world with some similarities to 1995 but marked differences in how the consumer will function.