Harnessing passion

As advertisers and media professionals continue to search for new ways to reach their consumers, those consumers are just as busily using their internal radar to shoot down - or avoid - the thousands of brand messages that we place in their path.

As advertisers and media professionals continue to search for new ways to reach their consumers, those consumers are just as busily using their internal radar to shoot down – or avoid – the thousands of brand messages that we place in their path.

Studies such as the Association of Canadian Advertising’s recent ‘Blind Date: The 2002 Canadian Television Commercial Monitoring Report,’ and Starcom Worldwide’s recent findings that showed only 25% of viewers could accurately recall a commercial they had seen in the last commercial break, serve to highlight the challenges faced by today’s advertisers and their agencies.

That is not to say that advertising no longer works – countless studies illustrate the positive impact that advertising and media can have on brand sales and awareness. However, the likelihood of brand invisibility is at an all-time high. The old media models of share of voice and media exposures are no longer sufficient to ensure that a brand breaks through to its potential customers.

With this in mind, Starcom has developed a new approach to communication planning and buying. It starts with thinking differently about media and redefining our role within the marketing process. Breaking down the traditional separation between media and marketing, we take a holistic approach to communication planning and deliver actionable insights based on a solid understanding of the brand, consumer, and media – and the unique relationship between them.

It entails discarding the traditional terminology of the media world. We see ourselves not as media planners and buyers, but as communication architects – contact planners and contact investment specialists. Through internal training, we arm people with expertise that extends beyond media and into all areas of communications and marketing. We believe our role encompasses more than simply buying time and space. We are in the business of fueling brands and our goal is to deliver measurable results against clients’ business goals.

Unlike traditional media planning models that rely on syndicated exposure-based and quantitative media research, our approach is focused on unearthing compelling brand and consumer insights, pushing contact planning into a leadership position in the marketing process.

With the brands’ marketing objectives in mind, Starcom mines syndicated research in innovative ways and invests in proprietary research to deliver insights into category and brand usage, brand messaging, consumer lifestyle and media usage that drive greater relevance and receptivity for all brand communication.

These insights drive communication channel planning and execution, and they also play a significant role in brand message development and future brand direction. The goal is three-fold: determine when and where the target is most attentive and receptive to brand messages; find contact points that best fit the brand positioning and ensure that the message and medium work synergistically to communicate what is necessary to build the brand.

This consumer-centric approach has pushed Starcom beyond simple age and gender targeting and into the world of ‘passion group marketing.’ Recognizing that consumers are ultimately in control of their media and brand experiences, passion group marketing is an outcome-driven targeting approach.

Using research that demonstrates a strong link between consumer involvement and advertising effectiveness, Starcom no longer defines targets based solely on simple demographics or product usage behavior. We believe there are richer targeting opportunities by combining these qualifiers with consumer passions, and then aim to align our clients’ products and services with them, thus placing client messages in an environment where the consumer is deeply involved and engaged.

Though demographics may broadly define a target group, they do not define what a person, or a group of people is about. Passions – not demographics – drive distinct contact preferences and consumer behavior, and connecting with the consumer requires identification and understanding of them in order to create ‘ownable’ communication properties that are unique to our clients’ brands.

This approach is based on more than belief; it’s derived from extensive research and analysis.

In the past two years alone, Starcom has funded more than 10 proprietary research studies including an extensive study on ‘Factors that Influence Television Viewing Quality and Ad Recall’ and several deep-dives into a variety of target groups.

Most recently, Starcom fielded Wave I of our Consumer Contact Audit (CCA) project. It provides a disciplined and objective assessment of over 30 contact points, based on exposure, attention and consumer receptivity, which in turn yields category-specific information regarding the role of advertising in influencing brand purchase decisions.

As the world of marketing and media evolves and the silos come down, media companies must also evolve. We are confident our approach will enable us to provide measurable results for our clients. Our belief is so strong that we will soon unveil a specialized, diversified service, dedicated to unearthing brand and consumer insights that will act as the fuel upon which innovative and ‘ownable’ media properties will be created.

David Shiffman is VP, research director at the Toronto office of Starcom Worldwide. He can be reached at: david.shiffman@starcomworldwide.ca.