Letters - 24 April-1 May 2007

Mustoes, OMD Digital, Getmemedia.com

THE CHALLENGE IS TO GIVE CONSUMERS SOMETHING GENUINELY WORTH TALKING ABOUT - Nick Mustoe, Managing director, Mustoes

Congratulations to MediaCom for launching its Word of Mouth unit to give clients a chance to get their brands talked about using seed consumers (MediaCom sets up Word of Mouth unit, 3 April, page 3).

As most other conventional media have lost authority and commercial effectiveness, word of mouth is re-emerging. Whose word do we still trust? Each other's.

The challenge for both creative and media agencies is no longer just "how do we tell the consumer the brand's message?" It is "how can we get people to tell it to each other?"

But, like any other medium, advocacy only works if you're clear about what you want to get across.

You have to know what the brand's story is. What is this brand for? Why does it exist? What is its unique role in the lives of people who use it?

If you are confused about the brand story, consumers will be too. They'll ignore it, or worse, make up their own version - and word of mouth quickly becomes confused Chinese whispers.

The challenge isn't just to get people talking about the brand; it is about getting them to pass the real brand story on to each other.

MediaCom's seed consumers are a good tool to start the story going, but if we are to learn how to get the best out of this powerful but dangerous "new" medium, the real creative challenge remains how to give people something genuinely worth talking about.

SEARCH SPECIALISTS MUST FACE MEDIA AGENCY THREAT - Laurent Boninfante, Head of search, OMD Digital

Your feature Should search count as advertising? (3 April, page 24) reignited the hotly debated question: "Media agency or search specialist?"

With search engine marketing remaining the most effective medium when it comes to generating leads and sales, it is very often the only form of marketing for small to medium-sized firms, operating mostly purely online.

Since, more often than not, SMEs have limited brand power and no external influencing factors, search specialists can make the most of their array of optimisation tools to maximise sales and return on investment in this stable advertising environment.

On the other hand, large advertisers rely on all types of media, both off and online, to market their products - and they typically have strong brands. They also have the flexibility to radically revise their product offering at short notice, making them more or less appealing virtually overnight.

In such a complex advertising environment, where integration is key to success and with so many external influencing factors, traditional media agencies are best at providing search as part of a truly integrated solution and at capitalising on the substantial cross-media data available.

In the past, the knowledge gap between media agencies and search specialists has lured some of those large advertisers away from their agencies and led them to hand over their search budget to specialists.

With this gap narrowing fast, such advertisers have realised that the edge search specialists had no longer outweighs their relative lack of understanding of those advertisers' businesses, challenges and organisations - integral understanding that is core to agencies.

There is still room for both media agencies and search specialists, catering respectively for large all-media and small to medium search-only advertisers. However, with an increasing number of those medium-sized advertisers consistently growing their budget and moving one step at a time above the line, search specialists are likely to be increasingly challenged by media agencies to retain their clients.

PLANNERS FIND THE IDEAS AND THEN MAKE THEM HAPPEN - Pete Davis, Managing director and founder, Getmemedia.com

I wanted to respond to Katy Clarkson's piece in the Media on Trial column (10 April, page 10), which featured my company. In an increasingly fragmented media market where clients constantly demand new and inventive media plans, the pressure is on for today's planner and believe me, I know, as I was formerly the client taskmaster as Nestle UK's media controller.

It was my experience on the client side that led me to launch Getmemedia.com.

Just one year since launch, we now have a site with more than 500 live marketing opportunities drawn from across the marketplace and more than 2,000 log-ins for planners, clients and agencies.

Nothing will ever replace the need for face-to-face meetings and relationship-building. However, the site is designed to help marketers and agencies reduce the amount of time spent on legwork and initial contact building to generate a shortlist of campaign possibilities.

Getmemedia.com can never replace strategy and we don't get involved in negotiation - it's all about not missing opportunities. Planners, in my experience, do much more than find the idea. They evaluate ideas and make them happen.

We welcome your letters and e-mails by Wednesday to mwnewsdesk@haymarket.com or MediaWeek, Haymarket Business Media, 174 Hammersmith Road, London, W6 7JP, or fax us 020 8267 8020.

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