Casting for a better Net

A shift from media planning to channel planning has caused some marketers to cut advertising for conventional TV. But where are they putting the cash?

Rather than casting a wide net, more

advertisers are stalking their customers with an eye to uncovering their myriad media

consumption habits, in order to plan precision message targeting.

This media-neutral approach, called

communications planning or channel planning, has been building over the past few years and is now embraced by major marketers including packaged goods giant Unilever and, more recently, Procter & Gamble, Ford Canada and Amex.

Cypress, Calif.-based Mitsubishi Motors North America has perhaps taken one of the most radical approaches to spending its US$120 million media budget by totally

abandoning network television and newspaper in favour of magazine, cable TV, online, direct mail and event sponsorship.

The man behind the plan, Ian Beavis, Mitsubishi North America’s SVP marketing, product planning, and PR, says the automaker is now targeting consumer segments along psychographic rather than demographic lines, leading to more integrated programs.

‘I’m pretty much media neutral but I’ve got to run my business in a prudent manner and fish where the fish are. As people are leaving network TV in pretty considerable numbers – certainly the people I want are – and going to cable, magazines and other media, that’s where I’ll go.’

Beavis changed the media strategy after assessing what Mitsubishi wanted to achieve for its brands and what would be the most effective way of reaching his consumers and allocating his budget. He then collaborated with Mitsubishi’s planning and creative agency Deutsch Los Angeles to choose the specific media channels to use.

Deutsch also developed the idea for Mitsubishi’s groundbreaking Super Bowl spot, which Beavis says probably made the automaker the only advertiser to really know if anyone actually watched its ad. The spot was part of its ‘See What Happens’ cliffhanger campaign that drove viewers to a Web site to see the ending of the commercial. He says the response was huge with 31 million hits on the Web site in the first 72 hours.

Beavis adds, ‘If you’ve ever wondered if there are people sitting in their living rooms with a computer on their lap watching

television, I can absolutely tell you that is the case – a lot more than we know.’

Rob Young, co-founder of Toronto-based media management company PHD Canada, has been following this trend and says as

traditional advertisers such as P&G, Unilever, and those in other stalwart categories such as automotive, reduce their presence on

conventional TV, investment in the medium is going primarily to the specialty networks. Those dollars are coming both from old and new money – the latter consisting of small brands that recognize they can make a big impact with a small budget by isolating a specialty channel.

Young says clients are driving the change.

‘The minute you charge your media people with

carefully examining all the possible media options… some medium is going to lose out, and from what I’ve seen, that is going to be TV.’

American Express is one marketer that has been reassessing its media mix; the credit

card firm is looking at how its target groups spend their days and is then trying to reach them at every touch point possible. Ava Kelly, director of advertising for Markham, Ont.-based Amex Canada, says this helps them reach existing as well as potential customers. She adds that Amex is working closely with

agencies Ogilvy and Mindshare in order to be more innovative.

‘When we look at different [media]

channels and how to get to different [consumer] segments, each part of a campaign can play

a different role in how and when they reach the target. This integrated mix is working

well for us but we’re continuing to look at what is available and what works in other world

markets too.’

Kelly says that Amex’s recent Aeroplan

campaign – its largest in almost a decade – is a good example of this multi-faceted, surround strategy. Television is still a mainstay for

the company but full-page newspaper and

magazine ads, airport billboards, direct mail, online, interactive components and direct response TV are also part of the mix.

An interactive CD-ROM was also created

that includes a calculator to show cardholders how their spending behaviour can add

up to points.

In addition, an extensive Air Canada in-flight component consisting of newspaper tip-ons, seat-pocket inserts, boarding pass ads, enRoute magazine ads and inserts, and

in-flight TV helped Amex reach its core target of frequent business travellers.

Similarly, P&G is choosing media based on what makes sense for each specific

demographic. After a recent high-profile search for a communications planning agency, the firm split its estimated U.S.$2.5 billion North American account between media

management companies Starcom MediaVest and Carat.

The idea is to have media-neutral

planning separate from buying so each brand uses the best channels to reach consumers.

Win Sakdinan, P&G Canada spokesperson, says with a portfolio of products as diverse as P&G’s, there is no such thing as a

one-size-fits-all plan. Each brand has a

different consumer so it is imperative that each has a unique

marketing mix. Traditional media like print and TV won’t be excluded, they just might be more

important to some brands than others.

Sakdinan says the company’s holistic approach to planning can already be seen in some marketing endeavours, such

as the Web site,

a Canadian initiative developed for Tampax and geared at one of its key targets, tween and teen girls.

Launched in 2000, the site stores info about puberty,

relationships and health, along with product news.

An advisory board

of teen girls helped develop the site.

Additionally, P&G is experimenting with ways to make

traditional media like conventional TV more effective. This past season the consumer packaged goods firm leveraged the popularity of reality TV with a product placement deal out of the U.S. that embedded some of its brands, such as Crest, Ivory and Pantene, as rewards on the program Survivor All-Stars.

At Ford Motor Company of Canada, the launch of the 2005 Ford Focus is also getting a more youth-oriented treatment with media placement in magazines and washroom ads in restaurants, bars and health clubs, as well as TV advertising and a cinema spot in Famous Players theatres across the country.

This follows the 2004 campaign for the

F-series pickup, which went way beyond

traditional media vehicles. At the time,

Dean Tesser, director of marketing

communications, decided that to truly

communicate all of the features of the redesigned pickup, he needed more than a

30-second commercial. The end result was

a long-format 30-minute infomercial,

co-developed and produced by Stonehenge Media Group and Wunderman, both of Toronto.

Tesser had his innovation validated in June when the infomercial took home the gold award in the direct marketing category at the U.S. International Film and Video Festival’s annual awards in Los Angeles.

The F-series of trucks has been Canada’s

number-one-selling pickup for 38 years and, thanks in part to the communications efforts, which also included four executions each of 30-second TV and radio spots, magazines,

direct mail, and a coast-to-coast promotion and vehicle giveaway with McDonald’s, last year it was the number-one-selling vehicle in the country – car or truck. In total, 65% of the media buy went to TV, including the

30-minute infomercial, with 35% dedicated

to all other media.

Tesser says Ford takes an integrated approach to the marketplace, using different media mixes based on the vehicle and the consumer demo.

‘Specialty helps us more narrowly define the demographic we want to attract. When you have programs about gardening, versus the Speed channel, the Outdoor Network, or

programming about reconstructing houses – there are different products we have based on our target markets that fit.’

Likewise, for Unilever Canada’s younger, male-skewed AXE deodorant body spray,

cinema advertising made the most sense.

Stephen Kouri, VP brands, home &

personal care, says like most advertisers, Unilever is finding TV to be increasingly expensive and it is no longer the default medium for the company’s advertising. Alternative media choices have also included Home Basics, a Unilever magazine targeting female demos, and the corresponding Web site.

‘We are looking to touch our targets in the most engaging ways possible,’ says Kouri. ‘We’re spending a lot of time thinking about the appropriate [communications] channels and we’re spending more than ever before on all sorts of other media, with the exception of radio. I don’t think radio has done a very

good job of enticing packaged goods to the medium – but we’re working on that.’