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Consumer centricity: Practice it with your advertisers or perish


When “consumer centricity” as a service-oriented discipline re-ignited itself not all that long ago across several dominant industry fronts, publishers by and large felt they were somewhat absolved from this self-induced doctrine.

They were quite happy to remain status quo and continued to dish out what traditionally was on their menu of offerings.

Following this complacent attitude, it is no wonder you still see media owners (and I have spoken to a fair share of industry folks at conferences the world over) adopting an introspective approach to things.

Predominantly, these outfits are to a large extent attempting to primarily flog off their sales inventory, rationalising it under the guise of attempting to answer their clients’ briefs.

This less than ideal state of affairs can be attributed, on one hand, to how some of these businesses are inflexibly structured, and, on the other, to an intrinsic lack of a comprehensive suite of attributes necessary for a full-fledged modern-day media organisation.

Media agencies used to have specialist planning departments labeled as new media, digital, or online. Today, many of these big name brands have aggregated both their traditional and new media planners and empowered them to deliver in a holistic manner across a full spectrum of media platforms.

On the contrary, a large percentage of publishing houses are predominantly still selling media by verticals and specific titles. It is not uncommon today for advertisers and their agencies to have to inconveniently engage a variety of salespeople cut across media categories and types in order to piece together an integrated communications proposal.

This scenario is neither efficient nor ideal, not just because of the huge amount of time required to coordinate the effort, but that what comes back tends to be more often than not piecemeal, bundle-skewed, and price-led, rather than ideas oriented!

This certainly doesn’t look or sound customer-oriented – more a case of being “inside-out” in thinking rather than “outside-in” – a scenario that reeks of corporate self-interest rather than a genuine attempt to be consumer-centric.

What advertisers want is for media owners to provide truly integrated solutions that help them connect effectively with their target audience of choice across multiple touch-points.

At this juncture, I’d like to point out that there is integration and there is integration. Ask any media owner and chances are they will profess that they are practicing this in some form or manner.

However, the best way to get to the crux of what true integration is must be to ask advertisers and their agencies what they really want out of their partnership with the publisher.

It will not be surprising to me that their responses will comprise a host of well-strung nomenclature, such as 360-servicing, one-stop media consultation, seamless multi-channel initiatives, idea-centric proposals, etc.

As someone working for a media owner, when I first heard the likes of these some years back, the initial thought that came to mind was whether, by doing this, will we be accused of taking over the role of the agencies?

However, the closer and the more I look at the issue, the more I am convinced that the greater the tri-partite relationship involving advertiser, agency, and media owner, the more positive the business implications all around. In short, win, win, and win!

There is every urgency and need for publishers to get back to basics, think beyond the confines of the box, and bring the brightest of ideas to the table. As we know our products so intimately well, we are possibly the best folks to formulate new and novel engagement propositions for our clients that leverage upon the DNA of the titles we represent.

Agency media planners neither have all the ideas nor the capacity to fully uncover the most compelling ways to leverage on our wares. Often enough, our newspapers and equivalent Web sites are viewed peripherally by agency media planners who merely feed off readership stats and audience demographics bought-off-the-shelf. Enough said. 

Brand and business owners today are very much conscious of the fact that, as far as advertising is concerned, one size does not fit all.

Most are experienced and sophisticated enough to realise that a myriad of the right and targeted communication solutions are mandatory to help them effectively connect with their customers at every stage of the purchase pathway.

Depending on the objectives set for the campaign, a host of media platforms weighted according to pre-set reach and engagement criteria determined for the campaign will be called into play.

A branding activation will generally require more mass media inclusions, which are pull-oriented as opposed to ROI-led initiatives, utilising more one-on-one push mechanisms such as direct mailers and contextual advertising.       

Central to all this, however, is what we started out talking about at the onset of this piece – consumer centricity.

Whether the campaign is to drive awareness, generate interest, create desire, or evoke action, the entire exercise must focus on the “customer.”

If you are a brand owner, your customer is the group of people out there who has the capacity to purchase your product or service. If you are a media owner, your customer is the advertiser who has the freewill to allocate budgets to whichever media that deliver the most potent connectivity.

The more a full-service a solution we can provide the “customer,” the greater the chance of sinking your teeth into a larger chunk of the advertising pie. As a brand owner, the more bells and whistles you have in your product that distinctly appeal to the consumers’ sphere of interests, the higher the chances of locking in the sale.

Seems there is a whole lot of work to be done to make this happen? You bet!

Not only this – more importantly, mindsets need to be changed to come in line with this service-oriented proposition and consumer-centric thrust. But whether you make the effort to do this or not, it is still very much your choice and that of the organisation you work for.

But in this day and age that we operate in, there don’t seem to be too many other options available.

On the topic of ideation, I find that it is a case of the more you do it, the easier it gets! Moving away from selling inventory to selling ideas constitutes a huge change in the way traditional media sales people function.

It is never easy when embarking on something new. I always tell my team that if they came up with five ideas and have two of these adopted, they will have already taken positive steps in the right direction with potential dividends and pay-outs forthcoming.

However, if they choose to play it safe and not take this route at all, they will undoubtedly be left behind. As the world moves dynamically ahead, merely running on the spot will already set you back several spots!

The guiding principle of consumer centricity is: Don’t sell boxes. Sell solutions.

This applies across every facet of the marketing world – so don’t rush out to sell computers, sell connectivity; don’t sell bouquets of flowers, sell an occasion to say thank you; don’t sell hamburgers, sell the perfect place to bond with family and friends; don’t sell coffee, sell a moment of solace; don’t sell media, sell engagement.

Where I work, we are determined upfront not to merely sell advertisements. We consciously strive to share ideas with our valued clientele — ideas that will help their brand connect better with intended audiences and key consumer segments. For we know that once we get this right, our extensive range of media products across multiple platforms will automatically start flying off the shelves.

And if this results in us being accused of delving into eccentric consumer centricity, then we are more than happy to plead “guilty as charged!”

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