It’s not your “interactive budget”, it’s your Marketing budget

Though Cable TV has been around since the late 40s as a way to help programming get to places where broadcast signals don’t reach, it was in the early 80s that the popularity of Cable took off. The launch of ESPN in 1979, and Superstation TBS in the mid 70s that gave people a choice of programming different from the three major networks of the time. At this time, ad agencies who were progressive got their clients to dedicate a portion of their media spending to “cable” as opposed to broadcast TV.

This separation exists today. Many brands still allocate budget for commercial buys for cable and broadcast separately, due to the different characteristics of each. Broadcast cuts a wider path, where as cable networks tend to be much more niche targets. In today’s world though, where one can find much better stats about who is watching what, when, and where many brands are better of just being on specific shows, regardless of where they run, the distinction between cable and broadcast budgets seems quaint.

Not as quaint, however, as the distinction between the advertising or marketing budget and the ‘interactive’ budget. Today, interactive is a part of how a huge percentage of people are exposed to products, brands, recommendations, and especially content. Comscore says that almost 85 million viewers watched over 4.3 billion videos on YouTube in March 2008. That’s over 50 videos per viewer.Quite an audience for your ads. And they can be even more finely targeted than on TV. (Wait, you say, “I don’t see ads on YouTube!” I beg to differ.)

Sometimes the content is the ad, like “Will it Blend.” But, in a recent chat with a marketing firm executive, he told me how he has to beg clients to carve out ten or fifteen percent of their buget for “experiments” in “new media,” whether those experiments are streaming video, blogging, Facebook, Twitter or the like. There’s one strategy for marketing and another for interactive. To me, this means that companies are missing out on coordinated strategies and short changing some potential innovations.

A great example of a company that did a great, integrated job in the past few years was Nissan, when they integrated their product into the TV show Heroes. That previous like to the “heroespedia” (wikipedia for the show Heroes) shows how the car was in the show, integrated in the plotline. They also bought a lot of ads on the Heroes website. Whereever Heroes fans turned they saw Nissan. This isn’t a ‘conversation’ strategy, and it is not rocket science either. But it is an opportunity that required Nissan and their agency to work across what are often silos – the creative group and the interactive group and the media buying group.

There are opportunities for integrating the feedback and ideas already online back into company websites, and for providing an outlet for customers to communicate directly with product teams (as GM did when they invited bloggers to see the Volt at the NY Auto Show). But these opportunities may pass companies by if they continue to think of their interactive and their marketing budgets as separate.

I’m moderating a panel on Marketing Innovation at Supernova 2008 on Wed., June 18th (at 8:30am, try not to be late), on just this subject. Hope you’ll come and share your insights.