As the media world becomes increasingly crowded, getting the right message to the right people becomes exponentially more difficult. The vast majority of the ad world understands this marketing reality well. But Starcom MediaVest Group has gone one step further to address the fact by hiring a six-pack of full-time consumer context planners (CCPs) – or cultural anthropologists of the media-buying world, if you ask them.
MediaVest director of research and CCP Jane Lacher likens her role to that of a strategic planner. ‘They are the eyes and ears of the consumer. They go out and do all the research, uncover the emotional touch points, and find out what’s going to resonate with the consumer in terms of the product you’re selling,’ she says. ‘The role of the CCP is to bring that same sort of insight-driven, qualitative and quantitative research to the media-planning and media-buying discipline.’
Each of Starcom MediaVest’s six CCPs will tackle one of its major brand clients (including Coca-Cola, Kellogg and Nintendo), and since Lacher has been assigned to packaged goods giant Kraft, she’ll likely be spending a fair bit of time tracking the media habits of the youth demo. It’s a remit Lacher should be comfortable with, considering she used to be VP of strategic planning and research at G Whiz, Grey Global Group’s youth and entertainment marketing agency. Although Lacher is still mapping out her kid-targeted plans, MediaVest has had some early successes with its CCP model in the adult arena.
One of the first media connections the company’s CCP team tapped into was the association between Coke and the movies. MediaVest’s Coke-dedicated CCP Kendra Hatcher says that while studying the Diet Coke consumer, the subject of movies kept popping up again and again, tied to the idea that Diet Coke was a ‘guiltless pleasure.’ That insight led to U.S. cable net TNT’s ‘Diet Coke Movie Fest,’ a branded weekend movie block that has been running since April. To further strengthen the connection between the soft drink brand and movies, Coke and TNT set up taping facilities this summer at retail outlets so viewers could record themselves delivering their favorite movie lines. The best of the bunch are shown in interstitial segments during the commercials. Hatcher is also currently working on a strategy to help Coke capitalize on a similar connection to video games.
Another CCP insight linking Kraft Foods’ line of Crystal Light drink mixes with moments of relaxation in women’s busy lives led to tie-ins with reading, including special sections in women’s magazines, sponsorship of Oprah’s book picks and point-of-sale displays at Barnes & Noble bookstores.
The need for a truly integrated media plan has been buzzing in the marketing world for the last year or two, brought on by the increasingly fragmented nature of society. For example, marketers used to look at the children’s demo in terms of preschoolers, school-age kids and teens, and now there are a dozen new sub-categories. And while a decade ago there were five channels on TV and a few major magazines, today the options range in the thousands, each targeted at a tighter niche than the last.
‘The touch points have changed significantly,’ Lacher says. ‘The CCP takes into account not only what the brand knows about its product and what the creative and ad teams know, but also how the consumer is actually going to come into contact with that message.’ While she uses similar techniques as a strategic planner – focus groups, primary and secondary research, talking to kids and observing them interacting – Lacher says the questions tend to be a bit more specific to how kids interact with their world.
There’s also an added element of responsibility when dealing with kids in that brands must be extra careful where they place their missive. ‘While it’s great to reach kids in school, that may not be the most appropriate place for certain messages.’
Starcom senior VP and director of consumer context planning Esther Franklin, who works on Kellogg and Nintendo, adds that less traditional media like text-messaging and indie websites are rapidly encroaching on the turf dominated by traditional media like TV and magazines, and kids follow closely behind teens and young adults in embracing new media. ‘It’s not foreign to them because they’ve grown up with it. It’s just part of their world,’ she says, adding that studying what media kids have access to with and without the help of adults is also key. ‘We have to understand what channels they are exposed to and how credible they are. Once we understand what they have the strongest relationships with, then we look at how we can leverage that to communicate the brand. We live in a world of de-massification and customization, so it’s no longer one-size-fits-all.’