In an age of rapid technological innovation it would seem counterintuitive to assume that marketing and advertising techniques would remain stagnant; to survive and prosper, as in all aspects of business, marketers need to adapt their strategies and activities and advertisers need to evolve in terms of style, content, and media application. Media, both as a self-perpetuating entity and as a facilitator of others’ marketing goals needs to respond to changes in environment and strategic perspective. Indeed, media are currently witnessing great flux in marketing approaches. Marketers are being forced to rethink traditional paradigms and re-evaluate fundamental tenets right down to the bedrock definitions including markets, what constitutes an “ad,” and what is meant by “media.”
Media Marketing Defined
Media are entities used for communicating; they physically transmit information over space and time. They link sender to receiver. Mass media are venues whereby a sender can transmit to many receivers simultaneously (DeFleur & Dennis 1994).
Traditionally media have been divided into two categories, electronic and nonelectronic. Historically electronic media were radio and television; non-electronic media included newspapers, magazines, direct mail, business papers, and outdoor (billboards, murals, etc.). Using electronic/non-electronic as a way to discriminate among various media is still largely valid but within these categories we have witnessed great change. In the non-electronic sector we have seen the rise of national newspapers as a supplement to local newspapers and the ownership of local papers increasingly by national and international media conglomerates with a concomitant effect on both news and advertising content. General interest magazines have by and large given way to a plethora of magazines that much more narrowly target specific audiences. Outdoor advertising, which essentially was billboards, has morphed into a new category – out of home, which includes not only billboards and murals but advertising on the sides of buses and taxi cabs, ads in public venues (airports, sports arenas, shopping malls, etc.), and many other applications. Major changes in electronic media include the conglomeration of local radio, the proliferation of cable television, an increase in the usage of product placement in television and motion pictures, and the rise of the Internet.
Marketing as a concept has been variously defined both narrowly and broadly. It has been defined in terms of activities – product conception, pricing, promotion and distribution strategies. Marketing has also been defined in terms of orientation – product orientation, sales orientation, or market orientation (Enis 1974).
When considering the nexus of media and marketing, marketing can be defined as all those activities aimed at facilitating and expediting exchanges between entities (Pride & Ferrell 1980). Media, from a marketing perspective, are the intermediaries through which exchanges between entities are facilitated, i.e., media provide a means for producers and sellers to communicate with consumers, both actual and potential. Obviously, the principal, or at least most palpable, way that media facilitate exchange is by running the advertisements of third parties. However, media also engender a favorable culture for marketers via news stories and entertainment programs. It has long been argued that the media in its forms and content encourage and proliferate a consumer culture. Finally, media, particularly electronic media, spend a significant amount of effort in self-promotion. Programming promos, logos on TV screens, “news” stories, event sponsorship, virtual ads during programming, etc., all serve to promote programs, stations, and networks.
As media accommodates marketers and modifies its own marketing strategies the media will necessarily change, mutatis mutandis. Due to a confluence of events we may, in fact, be on the cusp of such a mutation. The factors currently driving this polygenism are an increased emphasis on market segmentation and technological innovation and a general proliferation in both media and advertising.
The practice of market segmentation, dividing the potential audience into relatively homogeneous sub-groups, is neither a new or a revolutionary development. Audiences have long been segmented based on various factors, and strategies have been formulated to appeal to these varied segments. What is different about today’s segmentation efforts is the unprecedented ability of marketers to gather information about consumers and the profusion of media outlets in large part designed to appeal to specific market segments. The media is in the process of reorganizing itself to reflect this emphasis on segmentation. While the number of newspapers, largely a general interest medium, is contracting, radio stations are growing in number, the number of special interest publications have grown significantly since the 1970s, and cable television networks have proliferated.
Special interest magazines targeting specific user groups and radio stations with their differing content certainly exhibit the ethos of segmentation but cable television is particularly representative of both the desire to segment and the growth of segmentation strategy. Where once the television market was dominated by a few over-the-air broadcast networks, cable has grown by leaps and bounds. There are now shopping networks, home and garden networks, home improvement networks; networks for women, for history buffs, for those interested in science, weather, travel, fitness, religion, food, government, the legal system, and even jewelry; entertainment networks devoted to comedy, sports, and various genres such as animation, science fiction, and westerns. The mantra of all these media outlets is the viewer demographic. Who is watching? What do they purchase? And how can we appeal to them?
Digital technology offers virtually infinite opportunities for marketers to promote products. Television stations and networks digitally impose their company logo or call letters in a corner of the screen continually. Promos (words and pictures) routinely scroll across the bottom of the screen announcing upcoming programs and events. Corporate sponsors’ logos are digitally displayed on the screen during entertainment programs and sporting events. These “ads” can be changed many times over the course of the programs and games.
Product placement has adopted digital technology to create what has been termed virtual product placement. Traditional product placement requires actually displaying or using the physical product in a scene. Virtual product placement digitally inserts the product in the scene after the fact. Not only does this allow for more products to be placed, but it also allows for multiple placements during the lifetime of the entertainment. For example, a feature film contracts with Coca-Cola to have its product placed in the film during theater exhibition. The producer then contracts with another soft drink manufacturer, e.g., Pepsi, to have their product placed during the movie’s release on pay cable. The Coke can is digitally erased and a Pepsi can inserted. Similar digital alterations can occur when the film appears on cable, over-the-air, DVD, etc. The same process can be utilized on television for first-run and syndication.
A second technological innovation that is fueling the increasing emphasis on product placement in television is the digital video recorder (DVR). Increasingly television viewers are not required to watch program offerings at times dictated by broadcasters, rather they can record and watch desired programs when it is convenient. A consequence of this time-shifting behavior is that viewers of recorded programs routinely zap, or fast forward, through commercial breaks. Ergo, to reach viewers marketers must resort to other methods such as product placement or digital banners that appear during programming.
As advertising demand grows media adapt by exploring new and different ways to present ads within existing media and by creating new media forms to accommodate the demands of marketers. Advertisements are everywhere: chalked on sidewalks, on shopping carts in stores, in airports, on buses and taxis and all manner of public transportation, on closed circuit televisions in public spaces, in public restrooms, etc., not to mention all manner of outdoor signs and billboards.
The Internet, while not created as an advertising medium, has quickly adopted the advertising perspective. It is currently the fastest-growing medium in terms of percentage of advertising volume. In other words, of all money invested in advertising the Internet is increasing its share of total volume more than any other medium. As previously stated the number of radio stations is growing as the industry attempts to further segment the listening audience. Similarly it seems inevitable that cable television will continue to expand its reach. In addition marketers continue to search for other media to utilize. The growth of mobile phones has created one such opportunity. Mobile phone advertising, banner ads running across the bottom of phone screens, is increasing exponentially. It is estimated that by 2011 annual mobile phone advertising will exceed US$11 billion worldwide.
Product placement continues to expand. In addition to television and motion pictures there have been examples of product placement in video games, in novels, and in popular songs. The DVR has not only spurred the growth of product placement on television but is also causing discussion of expanding the technique in a practice referred to as product integration. Product integration involves sponsorship of an entire program whereby the advertiser controls the content of the program if not actually produces the show. This is, of course, not strictly new. In the early days of radio and television programming was often produced by advertisers who controlled the content of the programs. However, bringing this practice back will controvert the paradigm that has existed for over 40 years where networks create the programming and sell advertisers commercial time.
Future Directions In Media Marketing
Media marketing involves a bipartite construct where on the one hand the media markets itself – to consumers (audiences) and to marketers of other businesses as a viable intermediary – and on the other hand serves to facilitate the marketing efforts of advertisers. The goals of these two sides of the media marketing equation do not always converge. Programs that generate large audiences may not always be attractive to advertisers (e.g., shock radio) and advertising clutter may discourage viewership.
If the architectural bromide “Form follows function” pertains, it should be expected that media will organize itself to accommodate marketers. Recent developments in terms of segmented media offerings (cable TV, radio, targeted magazines) seem to give credence to this point of view. However, at what point will media compromise their own existence by acceding to marketing prerogatives? For example, will rampant product placement or product integration compromise programming quality? Will shows become little more than infomercials and will this result in reduced consumption of media? The Internet promises to be instructive as it struggles to evolve. Certainly it is attractive to users and offers value as an intermediary to marketers. It holds the promise of what might be called the ultimate segmentation strategy – tailored appeals to individual consumers. But how the Internet will ultimately be organized and who will control content will certainly involve a struggle between individual, business, and government interests.
Some media do not rely on advertising for funding. Magazines that support themselves solely through subscriptions or state-supported radio or television networks serve as examples. To the extent that these media do not have to make themselves attractive as advertising intermediaries they avoid some of the issues cited above. However, whether supported in whole or in part by advertising (corporate sponsorship often muddies the clear delineation between advertisingand non-advertising-supported media) the issues of market segmentation, technological innovation, and media proliferation still pertain. Even if media need not deliver audiences to advertisers they still need audiences to claim relevance.
Media marketing is in a state of flux. Both content and delivery are mutating. Mobile phones, which have been transformed from an instrument of personal communication to a mass medium generating billions of dollars of advertising revenue in a very short time, illustrate the stakes involved and the rapidity with which the media environment is changing.
- Bagdikian, B. H. (2004). The new media monopoly. Boston: Beacon Press.
- DeFleur, M., & Dennis, E. (1994). Understanding mass communication. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Enis, B. M. (1974). Marketing principles: The management process. Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear.
- Pride, W. M., & Ferrell, O. C. (1980). Marketing: Basic concepts and decisions. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.