In these tough economic times more and more brand-owner marketers are turning to ‘earned’ or ‘owned’ media exposure to help build their brand(s), – ‘earned’ media being publicity gained through non-promotional channels such as PR-generated editorials, social network activity, YouTube virals, and suchlike, ‘owned’ media being where the brand owner controls the message – company blog, website, twitter account, Facebook page perhaps. Marketers are doing so because they believe it to be free advertising, not ‘paid’ media. Well, free doesn’t always deliver reward.
Paid media makes the initial engagement with potential customers
Whilst both earned and owned media have a place in the communications mix, they don’t replace the need for paid media, i.e., conventional advertising in its broadest sense of brand communications. Paid media, and creative communications within it, are necessary to make the initial connection and engagement with potential customers, presenting the brand offering to them before going on to support the dialogue created by earned and, to a lesser extent, owned media initiatives.
Anti-advertising brand Google was quick off the mark to include paid media as its product portfolio developed beyond search. As was Sir Alan Sugar, well known for his disparaging views on advertising, when he launched his YouView TV set-top boxes.
Today, much of earned media is internet-based, initially seeding entertainment content on community channels such as YouTube and Flickr, to be propagated through social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Trouble is, these channels are now so heavily populated with content that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. And even Facebook admits that only 10% of fans see a brand’s content organically, they need motivating to discover the place where they might engage in dialogue with the brand. And that’s where paid media, advertising, comes into its own.
Paid, Earned and Owned Media should be integrated in a campaign
So, in building or supporting their brand marketers should orchestrate an integrated campaign of paid, earned and owned media activity – with paid media expanding the campaign’s reach, engaging with and nudging prospects to earned and owned media platforms, and with earned and owned media in return helping shape the paid media’s creative messaging by providing feedback of their intimate understanding of the interests and motivations of the brand’s followers.
Having made the case for paid media remaining in the mix, this brings us more specifically to conventional, paid-for advertising’s role in the brandbuilding effort, and particularly how it might achieve standout in the cacophony of messaging out there. Advertising in its broadest sense encompasses print ads, posters, TV, radio, direct mail, etc., and the role of this media is to encourage prospect engagement with the brand. But engagement can only be achieved if the message is noticed in the first place. Which is where a creative angle is necessary.
Effective and persuasive advertising must first have cut-through
For advertising to be effective and persuasive it first needs to have standout, cutting through the marketplace clutter for it to have an emotional impact upon its audience – be it to amuse or to surprise, to shock or enlighten – and is most effective when it encourages customer empathy with the brand by sharing a moment of insight – the ‘aha’ moment. There’s no set formula for this, it there was all brands would do the same and the approach would be ineffective – which is why uninspiring advertising doesn’t provide the ROI that creative ads achieve*. This emotional connection makes the message and the brand more likely to be remembered and recalled, ultimately creating brand fame, customer engagement and buzz, to be networked across earned media.
* There is credible IPA-supported research available which shows that advertising which wins creative awards is far more likely to have exceeded client objectives, and is more effective and accountable than advertising in general (11 times more efficient than non-awarded ones in achieving market share growth – see The Gunn Report: http://www.thinkbox.tv/upload/pdf/Creativity_and_Effectiveness_Report.pdf ).
Andy Sellers is founder and Creative Director of S&® the brandvertising agency, and a ‘Seriously Creative’ Consultant.