NEW YORK: Major marketers will primarily be focusing on return on investment, innovation and exploiting new digital channels in 2011, a survey has found.

Research firm Forrester and trade title Advertising Age interviewed more than 20 senior executives, gauging priorities for the coming year.

"CMOs are scrambling to stay ahead of rapidly-changing consumer behavior, media, and technology but are also striving to achieve the accountability demanded in lean times," said David Cooperstein, a Forrester analyst.

Some 52% of respondents suggested generating optimal results from communications budget, alongside enhanced measurement, constituted a core goal.

Automaker Ford has realised the benefits of modifying its tactics in this area, having asked 100 bloggers to test-drive the latest Fiesta in the US, and upload their views to portals like Facebook and YouTube.

"It changed a lot of people's minds both inside and outside the company," said Jim Farley, Ford's group vp, global marketing, sales and service

"It really demonstrated for the first time at Ford, at least in the US, that if you take a little money and execute the promotion of the Fiesta online a year before launch, that little investment could be the same as ten times as much as traditional, fixed marketing on television."

Encouraging greater innovation was a further target cited among contributors to the Forrester/AdAge report.

This task covers all of the "four Ps" - product, place, price and promotion.

Speaking at a recent analyst day, Bob McDonald, Procter & Gamble's ceo, stated the owner of Tide and Pampers is streamlining its operations to succeed in these sectors.

Initiatives have included introducing globally-standardised packaging, rationalising its portfolio, using virtual reality to gain early consumer feedback about prototypes and using real-time data to track deliveries.

"We are building a culture focused on simplifying our business and the processes that support it, while simultaneously driving improved productivity," said McDonald.

"Simplifying and improving productivity frees up resources for innovation and expansion that ultimately drive profitable growth."

Another 38% of poll participants said ensuring in-house structures were "agile and adaptable" was attracting their attention.

Keith Weed, Unilever's chief marketing and communications officer, argued earlier this month that such a reorientation requires a coordinated approach.

"Unilever board colleagues understand the reasons for the shifts from traditional media to new and more social media. There isn't a lot of convincing that needs doing," he said.

"It's my job, however, to deliver the capability of the organisation, but in that respect I'm pushing against open doors. How fast we scale it is more about how quickly we can get our 5,700 marketers up to speed."

Over the last two months, Time Inc. has created the role of chief digital officer and combined its sales and marketing and its digital corporate sales divisions.

"Our new Time Inc. Branded Solutions unit will better address marketplace needs and work even more effectively within our company's internal structure," said Paul Caine, Time Inc.'s chief revenue officer.

An additional objective identified by Forrester and AdAge's panel was "developing a social media strategy that's right for the brand".

Similarly, industry specialists were keen to try emerging formats, like location-based mobile targeting and interactive TV.

Food giant Kraft has actively explored evolving technologies, rolling out the iFood Assistant paid-for mobile app, and now an ebook linked to Philadelphia cream cheese.

"We're ... spending a lot of resources going digital, because that's where cooks are finding and sharing recipes," said Adam Butler, Philadelphia's brand manager.

"Ultimately we want to get more cream cheese recipes into people's hands. If we can do that digitally by having people download the book, then that's also a win."

Data sourced from Forrester, Marketing Week, Promo Magazine; additional content by Warc staff