There has been a lot of talk in the industry lately about the “new” practice of paid media placements. It’s hard to see in a world where our attention span only lasts 6 seconds or 140 characters, but a little homework reveals that media has always been a vehicle for sales. Here are three reasons that now is the perfect time for a history lesson:
1. Paid media – Not new, but now.
Sponsored programming was actually one of the first forms of radio advertising. The shows were called soap operas after the product they shilled and it was only much later that the advertisements were relegated to 30 second commercials.
While sponsored programming is not new, what makes it interesting now is that in today’s world of always on, everywhere, brands are getting smarter and breaking back out of that 30 second commercial or full-page ad. Marketing is increasingly infused not only directly within media outlets, but at every other touch point from brick and mortar to native advertising to social media.
You can see brands trying this in new ways everywhere today: Try to get through an episode of The Biggest Loser without being pitched a brand of gum as a snack alternative, or watch Stephen Colbert skillfully plug Dr. Pepper while joking about the fact that he is plugging Dr. Pepper. For that matter, turn off the TV. Go shop at your local Target and notice the co-branded editor picks from CNET; Turn on your tablet and read a fashion blog post sponsored by Mango for JC Penny; Flip through a magazine and use your phone to scan a QR code for extended content.
On the whole this is a good thing. Consumers want information that is relevant to their lifestyle; media outlets need new revenue streams and more content to keep consumers’ attention across the ever-growing number of channels and devices.
2. It’s the story, stupid.
The trick to making it work is putting the brand story at the heart of everything and breaking through marketing silos. This is a challenge, though, because often both internally at major brands and within the agency world, we’re broken out by “old-world” functions – Advertising. PR. Media Buying. Digital. Retail. Breaking through the silos has to start with storytelling. A brand is really nothing more than a narrative in the end – an origin story, a current snapshot, a vision for the future.
If we really want to do our best for clients, this is where we need to focus as PR agencies. It’s not about how to get our clients “coverage,” but how to get their brand story out there at every single relevant consumer touchpoint, whether that falls into the traditional definition of our camp or not.
In fact, there’s no place I’d rather be situated right now than in what has been traditionally called the “PR Industry.” We have a head start in this evolving media world; Serving as a liaison between stakeholders and telling great stories is in our blood. Relationships are the air we breathe. We can uniquely help brands navigate the marketing waters internally and work with our media influencers to tell rich stories to consumers externally.
Getting the most out of these marketing investments took a blend of functions – media buying and value add negotiations dovetailed with managing the story every step of the way through deep editorial relationships and deep understanding of the brand.
3. The world turns quickly.
It took nearly two decades for the soap opera to break out of the radio mold and dominate daytime TV audiences with 30-second ads in between. At that time, most shows were produced by either advertising agencies or brands themselves. In today’s shifting media landscape it will not take nearly two decades for a new paradigm to be established, and it will certainly not be a single marketing silo that achieves success.
So, the question for marketers is, do you feel like your company is approaching the 360˚ world of marketing in the smartest way? Is every single marketing dollar you spend accruing to the larger story that you want to tell to consumers?