WWD.com/globe-news/media-features/the-right-connection-1881509/
government-trade
government-trade

WWD Media Summit: MSLO Exec Discusses Online Platforms

MSLO’s Wenda Harris Millard says media firms must tap in.

Any account of memorable media moments this year would have to include Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live.” But as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. co-chief executive officer Wenda Harris Millard said, ad advertisers looking to capitalize on that popularity would err in buying only on NBC.

“Thirty-three percent of people in the United States who saw it watched it live,” said Harris Millard. “The other two thirds saw it on Hulu, YouTube, TiVo. If you were planning in a traditional way and wanted to make a buy there on NBC, you would miss two thirds of the people you thought you were reaching.”

The SNL example neatly sums up the challenge marketers face in a time of fragmented audiences and more platforms than ever. And Harris Millard should know: before she came to MSLO, initially as president of media, she was chief sales officer at Yahoo and worked both in Internet businesses and in magazines.

“The plethora of choice for consumer information and entertainment that is before us today is nothing short of staggering,” Harris Millard said. “Reaching consumers with commercial messaging is not an issue. There are more ways than ever before to get advertisements in front of the consumer. The issue is connecting with the consumer with the right message at the right time and on the right platforms.”

MSLO seeks to resolve that issue for its clients. With four magazines, plus special interest spin-offs, 14 hours of original programming airing daily on Sirius Radio, a daily television show, a Web site and several books, the company looks to earn the “Omnimedia” in its name. MSLO also has 15 merchandising partners in the retail world to get its own brand ubiquitous in the spaces of food, entertaining, decorating and crafts.

And while integrated marketing is a buzzword across the advertising and communications industries, Harris Millard argued that too often programs are integrated in name only. Current integrated programs are “bundling media assets to create volume to incent price without any thought to how different platforms work together to enhance the messaging and drive consumer behavior to a desired and measurable result,” she said.

As an example of how different media could be capitalized upon for a single consumer message, Harris Millard cited MSLO’s collaboration with M&Ms for the launch of Faces, which was being produced out of the My M&M division. Consumers can take advantage of new technology to personalize M&M candies with their own photos through an online application.

The first step was pegging My M&Ms to a particular facet of the Martha brand: in this case, holidays. The next step was a virtual bombardment of My M&Ms on every Martha platform.

There were advertorials on My M&Ms in the November and December issues of Martha Stewart Living and Everyday Food — fairly standard as far as magazine advertising goes. There was also a “bonus,” when the candies sitting around the office customized with Stewart’s own face inspired one of the creative directors to include My M&Ms in the Holiday special issue, Millard said.

The print pages drove readers online to a custom URL, mymms.com/Martha, which would help isolate and measure the impact of the campaign. My M&Ms also sponsored Stewart’s online holiday workshop, which Harris Millard said draw tens of thousands of readers. A “blog outreach program” on Martha’s Circle, the company’s ad network of Martha-minded bloggers, held the possibility of going viral. Biweekly e-mail blasts went out to the MSLO audience, evangelizing My M&Ms.

There was also a craft activity encouraging the audience to make a container to hold My M&Ms, which Stewart herself would demonstrate on her television show — not long after filming a visit to the M&Ms factory and demonstrating the technology behind Faces.

The final step was a concrete measurement of results by M&Ms, which wanted to know how many Faces candies had been purchased by Martha-driven consumers. The fact the digital space lends itself to numerical measurement — number of page views, number of visitors guided by each referrer, sales figures that can be directly linked to the dedicated URL — means media companies are now asked to be more accountable for results than ever. “We’re providing real time data along the way, allowing adjustments as we move along. If something’s working well, we can double down on that part of the effort,” or tweak less effective aspects as needed, she said.

Whereas once the challenge would have been getting a client to assent to a media program, “the hard work for successful integrated marketing programs begins at the yes” from the client, Harris Millard said, and continues with demonstrable results.

In the coming ad recession, being able to show clients exactly how their media is working for them will be more important than ever. But beyond specific cyclical changes — Harris Millard noted that this is her sixth advertising recession — is the fact that media have undergone a secular change that requires companies to adjust.

“We are being held to higher and higher levels of accountability than we could ever imagine. I mean, who would have thought that M&Ms would say to Martha Stewart Living, ‘I want to know how many bags of candy you’re selling?’” said Harris Millard. “This is a different world and it’s hard to step up to it, but we need to. It’s the way it’s working.”