Marketing Dept. Makeover: Digital Era Division - Michael Kassan - MediaBizBloggers

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New research shows that people over 50 years of age are the fastest growing group on social media. Almost half now regularly Book and tweet and otherwise get with the program, circa right now, just like the 18-24s marketers so ardently electronically woo.

There's a caveat, though: Grams still uses email to reach out and ping someone. Email is now old media—in every sense of the word.

This must be some kind of digital tipping point, because in 1998, the Los Angeles Times asked me to talk about new advertising opportunities, and I remarked that my 75 year-old mom was sending me emails all day long. If I didn't answer her quickly enough, I had cyber guilt.....the new age version of Jewish guilt.

But then I read a story in Ad Age about the Blackberry Torch launch and how AT&T, Apple, Verizon and others are spending lavishly on advertising in the smart phone shooting war, and I was struck by how offhandedly the writer described Apple as having "dropped" TV and outdoor in the campaign mix.

That one did require a re-reading. But the writer wasn't saying that those two platforms were not being used. In context—a paragraph that summed up the major players' smart phone marketing efforts—it was clear that the line meant just the opposite: that the duo were conspicuous elements in Apple's current advertising.

In other words, the reporter chose a gamer industry term to describe the elements in a media campaign.

And you know what struck me most about both of these close encounters with constant change? How unsurprised I was that seniors tweet and ad reporters use digital-age slang to describe a campaign's media mix.

These are little signposts we pass, figuratively and literally, every day to remind us that we can't stop evolving or we'll be left behind. Overwhelm stalks us all.

"CMOs often ask me, 'do I really need to care about Twitter,' "observes my partner Wenda Harris Millard, MediaLink president, "but that's a proxy for 'what should I care about, and to what degree?' "

In fact, how to structure a marketing organization to meet objectives in a flat, integrated world may be the single greatest challenge clients, agencies and media companies face today, more critical even than what kind of content they produce and which channels they choose. I asked Wenda, who advises our client partners on how to restructure successfully, if there were any guidelines we could lean upon, as David Ogilvy famously said about research, for illumination rather than support.

She says there are indeed. Three, to be exact:

  1. Make digital a part of, not apart from everything you do. Believe it or not, many marketing organizations are still siloed, with separate entities handling digital efforts. But digital is not a strategy. It is a part of the very fabric of everything we do.

Yes, some organizations have integrated digital throughout their operations or put digital executives at the helm—even the 4A's has done it. But it should not be an option. It must be an imperative for every organization in the industry, whether agency, client or media company.

  1. There is no single solution. The challenge to operating successfully in a digital ecosystem is universal; meeting the challenge is different for every entity. There is no check-the-box plan.

For marketers, media companies or agencies, the desire to change is not enough. Evaluate what your asset base is, what is primary for you, where your revenue comes from, what your culture is and your legacy.

Should you transform in a one, two or three-step process? How much talent should you bring in? What do your people need to train for? Some have the kind of culture that can turn on a dime. Some have just the opposite. Do only what the company can absorb.

  1. Stay loose. Tight organizational structures are a thing of the past. You don't know where the next Twitter will occur—but you know it will. Flexibility and agility are essential.

These may sound basic, but we know from experience how hard they are to implement. Harder even then translating the latest Ad Age campaign story, or figuring out what to do with the Friend requests you're getting from all of Grandpa's buddies at the retirement home.

Michael E. Kassan is Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, LLC, a leading Los Angeles and New York City-based advisory and business development firm that provides critical counsel and direction on issues of marketing, advertising, media, entertainment and digital technology. Michael can be reached at michael@medialinkllc.com

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