Twenty-five years ago, in May 1990, Jack Myers published the results of a major research study on media values and marketing strategies conducted among more than 750 marketing and advertising executives. The study included a quantitative survey, six focus groups and more than 100 personal interviews. Conducted in partnership with trade publication Marketing & Media Decisions, the research provided "insights into the dynamics that are influencing the investment of billions of dollars and impacting on the efforts of hundreds of advertising and promotional agencies and media companies."
In his report, titled In Search of Value: Behind the Scenes in the War for the Consumer's Mind, Myers outlined a prescient view of the media industry's future:
"As sales representatives from competing media companies battle at the media buying offices of advertising agencies to gain their share of billions of dollars spent annually on advertising and promotion, the real war in the media marketplace will be fought in the 1990s at the client and media planner levels. This is where decisions will be made based on the brand image of individual media, and where media will either qualify or not to be eligible for the price-based media battles."
Of course, in the 1990s, media departments were still integrated within full-service agencies and were typically ugly step-sisters to the dominant creative departments. Myers, however, countered the traditional adversarial negotiations between media buyers and media sellers by suggesting that:
"Traditional dependence upon supply and demand dynamics, aggressive selling and price negotiations will no longer suffice. Media companies must incorporate traditional packaged goods approaches to the marketing of their products not only to viewers and readers but to the advertising community as well."
The study accurately forecast the declines of print and local media in relevance and revenues and the continued vitality of network television. The survey results also predicted the issues that have been at the forefront of media and advertising for more than two decades. Myers wrote that the search for marketing and media value in the 1990s will focus on five issues that consistently surfaced in the research:
Marketing focus on brand image
Increasing importance of research
Increased emphasis on niche marketing (ie targeted marketing)
Expanded media/advertiser direct relationships
Impact of economic conditions
"As media options expand and marketers seek to differentiate among various media/promotional choices, marketers are becoming dependent on information that enables them to pinpoint consumer and/or trade reaction. The demands on media to prove their value is intensifying. Many media mistakenly focus on greater cost efficiency as proof of a medium's ability to communicate effectively with consumers."
Ultimately, Myers found, "the real battle for advertising and promotional dollars is a battle for the consumer's mind. Marketers now perceive their budgets as 'customer influence' spending rather than separate print, direct marketing, television or sales promotion budgets."
With quotes from senior marketing executives at General Motors, McDonald's Corp, Campbell Soup Company, AT&T, Sony Corp. and Bristol-Myers Squibb, Myers' report foresaw marketers' intensifying demand for "improved research on advertising's impact on product sales" and he forecast that marketers would "seek new forms of research that are return-on-investment based." Although the study was conducted 25-years ago, there are several sections that read as if they were written today. The following are direct quotes from the study report.
Marketing partnerships between marketers and media that shift the focus from media cost considerations to long-range marketing factors are important;
Media vehicles that are requested for inclusion in media plans by client and agency planning executives, will be positioned to minimize pricing negotiation and maximize advertising sales revenues. These media vehicles will be the ones that create and maintain a clearly defined and promoted image.
Media that focus solely on quantitative performance measures will be forced to live or die based upon circulation and price. Traditional dependence on supply and demand dynamics, aggressive selling and price negotiation will no longer suffice.
This survey reflects growing dissatisfaction with the status quo. Along with the growth of media and promotional options, there is a commensurate need to define the effectiveness of these options.
Media need to invest in establishing a correlation between advertising and sales. The research need not, say marketers, be predictive, but advertisers need to get closer to accountability for their media spending. The media environment has changed so quickly that existing studies are no longer relevant.
Basically, decision-makers are seeking a greater feeling of confidence in their decisions – confidence that their media spending is as effective as well as efficient as possible.
To be successful in the future, media must clearly define their audience composition and establish their unique ability to communicate with this audience. Advertisers believe it is valuable to associate their product with specific editorial and/or programming content.
Advertisers will increasingly seek to develop relationships whereby media provide individualized marketing programs as enhancements to media packages.
76% of advertisers with budgets of more than $100 million (1990 dollars) state that broadcast network audience erosion is having a 'very' or 'extremely' serious negative impact on their advertising and marketing plans.
Agencies are challenged to purchase media at the lowest possible cost and for the lowest possible compensation.
1990 to 2015 – these have been 25-years during which the media industry has been radically transformed: cable TV, erosion, digital media, online advertising, mobile, place-based, over-the-top viewing, fragmentation, interactive media. As prescient as the Myers research was in 1990, our industry's fundamental business realities seem constant; the same issues and underlying tensions among marketers, agencies and media sellers remain. Solutions seem closer, but we wonder why the vision of marketers in 1990 remain a future vision for marketers today. Please share for publication your perspective on what's actually changing today, and/or why the industry has not yet fulfilled marketers' need. Send your comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org