Staff Reporters
Mar 19, 2010

Are brands fast becoming media owners? We've asked four experts.

As Coca-Cola purchases its own outdoor digital sites, does this herald a trend whereby brands command their own media domains? We've asked a design company CEO, an online brand manager, a media strategist and a media planner for their opinion.

Are brands fast becoming media owners? We've asked four experts.

Chris O Donnell KineticChris O’Donnell, CEO Asia-Pacific at Kinetic, says NO

“Brands having permanent presence in digital outdoor - or any media - is not a new idea, although the commitment shown by Coke to its campaign perhaps is. However innovative, it is a mistake to see this as the first step to brands becoming media owners.

For a brand like Coke to be in any business, it needs to be the best in that business. And the moment it leaves the sanctity of strategic control of its media budget and into media responsibility, is the moment it loses the ability to realise that ambition.

A brand needs to understand what its consumers are thinking. And brands are just not set up to do that. That’s why media agencies exist. How, for example, is the media really consumed and by whom? Does that interaction vary by day part or demographic? What is the psychological effect of running location-specific rather than generic content? How do you change people’s behaviour with their mobile device? And how does it work alongside TV, press and online?

Constant questions for a brand - and that’s before all the hardware heartache that comes from a system out of date the moment the purchase order was signed. ”

Leslie Chu, country manager at Microsoft Online, says YES

“This is definitely true when we look at the growing number of branding and engagement activities happening online.

Nowadays, consumer brands, marketers and decision-makers are using various forms of media more wisely in order to grab the attention of demanding consumers, and they are delivering marketing messages more effectively. By doing this, marketers need a thorough understanding of the media and a stronger sense of ownership towards the media. The better brands understand different media, the better they are able to create the viral effect among a target segment. Social networking is a very good example of it.

Digital marketing is an undoubtedly important media to reach teenagers and working professionals. To catch up with the digital trend, marketers have to build a closer partnership with media owners in order to learn as well as to implement marketing campaigns with the help of latest technology. The implication above is an even more intimate relationship among marketers and media owners in near future.”

Ed Tam, director of invention at Mindshare, says NO

“Brands have always been media owners whether they know it or not. This alleged ‘phenomenon’ actually goes back to the 1930s. FMCG brands at the time, including P&G, produced radio and TV shows with their brands and products woven into the narrative. These were the original ‘soap operas’.

Fast forward 70 years, and marketers and agencies are now beginning to realise that everything a brand creates, physical or otherwise, is media. TV spots, ads, stunts, websites, concerts, communities and packaging are all media.

The fact that Coca-Cola has purchased a significant number of digital and static OOH sites is not surprising. Coca-Cola is a major investor in the global media market. With its historical knowledge of the market combined with the relative simplicity of the medium, there is no reason why Coca-Cola shouldn’t invest in this area.

What is the upshot for media agencies? Well, I think the sole purpose of agencies, regardless of expertise or persuasion, is to help client to manage complexities. It’s our job to blend insights with creativity to make the complex simple. It’s that or we die.”

Steve Blakeman, chief planning officer at Mediabrands, says YES

“Well actually, I will qualify that ‘yes’ with an ‘eventually’. Brands becoming media owners is a paradigm shift that will inevitably occur over the course of the next few years as marketers begin to understand and appreciate the potential benefits of building their own media channels.

In fairness, advertisers’ first forays into media ownership weren’t exactly successful. For example, first mover advantage is probably not applicable when considering, the much-vaunted branded entertainment channel developed by Anheuser-Busch. Launched to coincide with the US Superbowl and with an impressive array of talent and content, it was pulled just two years into its short life.

Pioneering casualties will at least pave the way for new advertisers to build communication platforms and learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. Seth Godin summed it up recently when he highlighted the difference between renting eyeballs (the old media way where you buy an ad that is seen by, say, magazine readers) as opposed to owning the actual platform. As he put it: ‘You’re no longer renting an audience, you’re building one’.”

This article was originally published in the 11 March 2010 issue of Media.
Campaign Asia

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