WARC from Home is a new series to help subscribers to brush up on the essentials of marketing during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Every week we’ll guide you round the latest thinking on a key topic, pointing you in the direction of must-read articles, seminal research papers and essential webinars, to ensure you are top of the class when we all finally return to office life. Find all WARC from Home content here.

This week we’re looking at media integration – by no means a new concept, but one of increasing importance in a fragmented media landscape. Marketers are under increasing pressure to maximise the return on media investments, and this can best be achieved by a coordinated use of complementary channels and platforms.

And if you missed it, please do check out last week’s lesson on distinctive brand assets.

What do we mean by integrating media?

Marketers first coined the term ‘integration’ in the late 1980s to describe campaigns using multiple channels synergistically so that they reinforce each other. Today, integration is more complicated than simply aligning messaging across a small number of traditional channels, and brands must consider a spectrum of paid, owned and earned media.  

By and large, advertisers have moved away from a “matching luggage” philosophy, where visual identities are common across channels, and messages are integrated around a common advertising idea. In its place, many have adopted “brand-led” or “participation-led” orchestration, unifying activity around a single brand idea or a conversation with the consumer.

In practice – as revealed by WARC’s latest Media Allocation Report, an analysis of over 1,130 case studies – the most successful brands now spend on average more than 80% of their budgets on a combination of TV and digital channels. The biggest determinant of media allocation, however, remains size of budget.

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OK, but what’s the evidence?

A landmark study by the Advertising Research Foundation and consultancy Analytic Partners in 2016 concluded that a combination of complementary media channels can boost campaign effectiveness.

The research found that multichannel campaigns create consumption synergies, enabling advertisers to capture consumer attention at different engagement points in their purchase journey. Going from one platform to two increases ROI by 19%, while investing across five platforms delivers, on average, an ROI boost totalling more than 35%.

The impact on consumer memory after exposure across channels and platforms has been dubbed the “kicker effect”. Marketers deploying a “surround-sound” marketing plan can therefore achieve reach more efficiently.

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Which channels combine to best effect?

As ever, it depends on an advertiser’s budget and desired outcomes, though much evidence points towards a combination of mass reach offline media with more performance-driven digital platforms.

In their ‘Marketing in the Digital Age’ study published in 2016, Les Binet and Peter Field found a 54% increase in the average number of “very large” business effects when adding TV and online video together in a campaign’s media mix. For TV-only campaigns this increase was 32%.

The same effect can be seen in OOH. Campaigns featuring outdoor media activity in isolation saw a 15% uplift in effectiveness; this rose to 37% when outdoor was used in tandem with digital.

Marketers should consider the unique attributes of each channel when plotting a route to an overall campaign goal. Thinkbox, the UK commercial television body, suggests TV ads work best focusing on key messages, while print and online can provide additional detail. Digital experts, meanwhile, argue social platforms can be used to amplify the reach of TV to elusive younger audiences.

Yet not all reach is born equal, according to Ebiquity. The firm’s latest report, ‘Mind the Gap’, revealed diminished reach caused by shrinking TV audiences – but argued that digital media alone cannot plug this ‘gap’, particularly when considering online video completion rates.

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Any real-world examples?

Brands have by no means perfected the art of cross-media planning, in no small part due to shortcomings with existing measurement solutions – something advertisers including Mastercard, Procter & Gamble and Unilever are trying to address with the Cross Media Working Group.

McCain Foods provides an interesting case study. In its attempt to grow the size of the UK’s frozen potato category, it deployed a heavyweight TV campaign, with a creative focus on giving people a reason to buy the product. An extensive press and outdoor campaign – including large digital OOH formats – then delivered speed and taste messages to capitalise on the awareness generated by TV.

It’s also worth reading up on Tourism Australia’s ‘Dundee – The son of a legend returns home’ campaign, winner of the 2018 WARC Media Award for Effective Channel Integration.

The government agency mimicked a Hollywood film campaign to shift perceptions and attract US high-value travellers. Promotional activity on social media, digital and OOH culminated in the 'official movie trailer' being broadcast on TV during Super Bowl LII – delivering an 83% increase in intent to book and yielded a 6:1 ROI for earned coverage.

We hope you enjoyed this lesson and found it useful. Please do share any feedback, and get in touch with the WARC team if you would like to find out more.