Heidi Brauer unpacks her suitcase and dumps the concept of new media being the media and marketing solution to absolutely everything, in a story first published in The Media magazine.
I hate suitcase words – words that people toss into their invisible suitcases and then bring to meetings, events, forums, discussions, round tables and other conflabs. We throw open our suitcase and out tumble our suitcase words and there begin the problems. We assume that the words (which may look and sound the same) in my suitcase mean the same as the ones in yours.
And mostly, they don’t.
A while back, I was asked to sit on a panel (talk about a funny bunch of words, that). The topic was something like ‘digital marketing, e-marketing, social media and marketing’. Alongside me on this panel were esteemed gurus in aforementioned fields. They starting speaking, opening suitcases and impressively flinging verbiage.
Audience members opened their invisible suitcases, compared verbiage and, battling to make a match, started looking glazed and confused. And then it was my turn to sprout forth: what did I think of all this new media?
I don’t carry suitcases anymore. I learned way back that the sooner we empty them the better, so that’s what I aimed to do on that panel. And I began to try and dissect what the heck this ‘new media’ really was and if we really did need to rush out and hire specialist staff and agencies to do ‘it’ for us. These were my thoughts:
As marketers, we have a job of work to do (encouraging people to buy our products), using the most effective and appropriate communication channels available to us. We develop a strategy that will best enable us to do this selling job and pick the corresponding media to help get the message to the people in the most efficient way. This means effectiveness in both clarity of message, achievement of desired response and cost, all rolling up into ROMI (return on marketing investment).
Enter ‘new media’: I tweeted sarcastically (I hope my sarcasm came across) to a conference on this topic the other day, something about when will ‘new’ media be ‘old’? Urgh, I hate fad of the day and what it does to people. So let’s quickly open suitcases and see what comes out when we look for ‘new media’, to be sure we’re on the same page: interactive, digital, online, web, social, hybrid, online marketing, yada yada.
Almost daily, I get e-mail (pretty much only e-mail) introductions from agencies offering their services in the realm of the above, each making it sound as this stuff was so new, so cutting edge, so off the chain, that I, as a mere marketer, couldn’t possibly have thought of it yet. Sorry boys and girls – we been havin’ it. Because it’s really just a medium (on steroids, yes) to talk to prospects and customers. Same as print, radio, TV, outdoor. A media channel to be considered, AFTER the business and comms strategy has been set down, in the mix with all the others.
I read somewhere that ‘new media’ is, for consumers, “a democratisation of the creation, publishing, distribution and consumption of media content”. For agencies or providers, it seems to be a wonderful opportunity to create the MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) effect on marketers, who end up with campaigns often driven back to front i.e. with the media determining the strategy (It’s cheap! It’s measurable! Let’s do it!).
Poor, poor marketers. We have been assaulted by terminology. Attacked by promises of measurability. Courted with whispers of uniqueness and overwhelmed by complexity. We’ve had to give our power away. Hire staff. Create new departments. Hire new agencies. Imagine having an ‘outdoor media manager’ housed in the procurement department? Or a ‘print media manager’ working in the accounts department? Don’t laugh, some of us have ‘digital marketing managers’ in the IT department! Feels sometimes like a totalitarian assault of the techies on the marketers.
Take your power back, comrades! This is a media channel like all others. We have to ensure that it’s not exclusive, but inclusive and that silos, empires and divisions within our organisations and among our agencies aren’t created and encouraged.
None of that stuff serves the brand, the business or the customer. None of that serves to create integrated, beautifully pulled-through campaigns where media serves the campaign idea rather than the you-know-what wagging the you-know-whom. The Economist and others are reporting that TV adspend is on the up. ‘Old’ isn’t out the window just because we have ‘new’. We can have it all, friends; we for sure should consider it all at the very least.
So be bold and ensure all suitcases are unpacked at every meeting. You have the power. Ask questions, get all your agencies talking to each other. Hell, get all your staff talking to each other.
And not to leave my media and agency friends out: collaborative integration is the future. I just made that up, but I like it!
Heidi Brauer is group marketing executive of Comair (kulula.com, British Airways and SLOW) and deputy chairman of the Marketing Association of South Africa.
Follow her on Twitter: @heidibeeee