Blending the old and the new seems like a good idea

Blending the old and the new seems like a good idea.
Being the lazy sort that I am, I don’t usually blog on Saturday, but there’s something in the works that requires comment today. I think this is potentially very significant in the evolution of media planning, and that means it could have profound implications for television downstream.

MediaPost, the folks who bring us the online MediaDailyNews and a host of other wonderful online media resources, also publishes Media Magazine. They produce two different versions, one for traditional media, the other for interactive (online). These two advertising silos have existed since the earlier days of the web, and there has always been talk about merging the two. The idea seems to make sense, but does it really?

David Cohen, senior-VP and interactive media director at Universal McCann Interactive, raised the issue again on Friday in a MediaPost guest commentary. Judging by the reaction of readers, there’s a lot of energy behind Cohen’s suggestion that MediaPost combine both editions into one. In introducing his piece, the editors noted, “While he is an online media practitioner, Cohen often has a seat at the table with the “grownups” — his traditional media brethren.”

The fact that Media Magazine continues to publish a “traditional media” edition and an “online media” edition, perpetuates the “silo” mentality that our industry has been working so hard to eliminate. Digital media should be viewed as a valuable part of an overall communications plan, not a stand- alone entity. The longer that we keep our industry shrouded in a cloak of complexity and exclusivity, the longer we’ll remain the 3% solution.

As interactive media practitioners, we must have a vested interest in the news, issues, and developments taking place in the traditional media and marketing world. Online media and marketing does not exist in a vacuum. It is important for online and traditional media practitioners to understand the overall context within which we all operate. Insights into the challenges facing marketers from an overall media perspective can give us a better sense of which areas we can complement an overall communications program (i.e., “Having some trouble in the upfront? Hey, did you know that there are millions of video streams available online?”).

Conversely, I speak to traditional planners and buyers all the time who are looking for the best resources to stay on top of the rapidly changing interactive landscape. Anyone who lives in the world of advertising and marketing understands that there are shifts of epic proportions occurring in the way that media is consumed. It is a seamless blend of platforms and content, which regularly cross the analog-digital border.

Like it or not, our worlds are inextricably linked and rushing closer and closer each day.

Let’s assume for a moment that this were to happen and then let’s further assume that what follows is one happy family of traditional and interactive marketers. Who runs things? The traditionalists who are already entrenched in power? Or the newbies that the article assumes are just dying to dine at the table of the adults?

As a part of Universal McCann, Mr. Cohen’s opinion springs from the top of the marketing heap, and the view from there is multi-directional and includes the status quo. I’m one of those who believes the age of mass marketing is drawing to a close, and the Internet is making that happen. The status quo has a great deal to gain in a Borg-esque assimilation of the new into the old, and I’m just not sure that’s in the best interests of the baby. I could be convinced otherwise, but the idea gives me pause. Sitting with the grown-ups is fine, but there comes a time when the children become the grownups.

This is one of those times, an era of epochal change in our culture. Marketing isn’t changing it. People are, everyday folks who are tired of being manipulated and herded for the sake of somebody else’s economic gain. Markets are conversations, and therein lies the power of the Web. Do the traditionalists have to come along? Absolutely not! The 3 percent solution of today is tomorrow’s 5 percent solution, and so on. The point is that the future is interactive. It is the engine driving the change, and only if a combined magazine approached it from that perspective would it get my vote.

Whether there becomes a blended marketing universe or not, it has implications for television. If it were to happen, I think the downward spiral of ad dollars for TV would rapidly accelerate, because more traditionalists would embrace the power of the Web at the agency level. If the Interactive marketing world remained an independent silo, the erosion will still continue, but it would be driven at the advertiser level, not from the agencies. The latter is trouble for the traditional marketing industry, and that’s what Mr. Cohen’s suggestion is really all about anyway.

This is an interesting issue to watch.

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