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Balancing Paid, Owned and Earned Media a Must for Multichannel Marketers



Norm Johnston
Global Digital Leader
Mindshare Worldwide

Mindshare Worldwide, an advertising and marketing services agency that is part of Group M and the larger WPP company, was one of the first global, full-service media companies. Norm Johnston, Mindshare’s global digital leader, is responsible for overseeing and expanding the agency’s digital capabilities and strategy. He also works the front lines, advising clients on digital campaigns and media plans. Johnston spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher about the importance of looking beyond media devices and advertising channels when crafting a multichannel campaign.

eMarketer: How does Mindshare Worldwide approach building a multichannel advertising campaign strategy?

Norm Johnston: We do a lot of our analysis based on the consumer journey of trying to sense where the consumer is going based on the brand objective, or based on the data.

It’s not so much just about the channels or devices where we can reach consumers, it’s more about the understanding of the dynamics between paid and earned media. How consumers are using devices is quite interesting, and that has had an impact on how we approach and build campaigns, but I think if you build your approach around devices, you’re gradually going to drive yourself crazy. The goal should be making sure that on any device, people can find what they want to find.

"We need to get past this concept that mobile’s something separate, because it’s not. If people can’t see your brand on a mobile phone or a tablet, you’ve got an issue."

For example, rather than separating mobile out, we embed a mobility mentality into everything we’re doing. So when we look at paid, owned and earned media, there’s a mobile aspect to each of those things. Sometimes, it’s simply an extension of what we’re already doing—paid search is one example where that’s true. We need to get past this concept that mobile’s something separate, because it’s not. If people can’t see your brand on a mobile phone or a tablet, you’ve got an issue.

eMarketer: What benefit does looking at multichannel marketing through the lens of a paid, owned and earned media strategy offer?

Johnston: There are all these correlations between paid, owned and earned that are quite fascinating. When we’re helping clients build campaigns that mix these media, it’s important to make sure campaigns are fluid and not set in stone.

For example, if you see paid media activity generating significant amounts of earned media, then you should be able to recalibrate your focus and energy to be able to achieve greater incremental reach that leverages this observed relationship. We refer to this as “adaptive planning,” and it’s almost like a trading scenario, where you look at the data in real time and adjust things on a continued basis.

eMarketer: Do approaches to cross-channel advertising differ based on branding versus direct-response objectives?

Johnston: On the direct side, marketers have always been very good with digital, but there’s an arguable blurring that is happening between branding and direct response as more assets become interactive and response-oriented, which is inherently digital.

"The branding and direct-response worlds are beginning to blur more than they have in the past."

It’s no longer just about the qualitative boost to brand sentiment when interacting with a particular asset. Marketers now have to decide whether they want their creative to be shared or liked or clicked on to direct consumers to a catalog or retail space. The branding and direct-response worlds are beginning to blur more than they have in the past.

eMarketer: When thinking about incorporating elements of paid, owned and earned media into your overall multichannel advertising and marketing strategy, is there any one of the three that is most critical?

Johnston: You cannot underestimate the impact of word-of-mouth on the earned side. If you look at Apple, for example, they don’t spend a lot of money on media, and they spend very little on creative. But because they have a strong attitude and such strong word-of-mouth, it does wonders for the brand.

There’s a premium and a value to earned media, and it is especially important in product and vertical categories where you have a lot of commoditization—it’s the only thing that’s going to give a brand the ability to get a higher profit margin.

But I will say, from the data we’ve seen from Facebook and others, it’s hard to generate earned media without some level of paid media. And, you have to have something owned, even in the simplest terms, a Facebook fan page or a brand page—some place people can discover the brand.

Still, you can spend a lot of money in paid media and develop a wonderful website, but if there is poor sentiment, you’re in trouble. No amount of paid media is going to make up for a large amount of bad, earned media.

A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer Total Access clients only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Total Access client, click here.

Check out today’s other article, “Kindle Fire Adds Fuel to Tablet Market Growth.”

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