MMW Op Ed: The Cross-Channel Conundrum

MMW Op Ed The Cross-Channel ConundrumThe following is a guest contributed post to MMW from Andrew Hoeberichts, Senior Vice President of Merkle’s Travel, Media, and Entertainment Practice.

Applying insightful analytics begins with the ability to have a clear and unified view of the consumer. This is becoming more and more difficult with today’s cross-channel consumer.

Direct marketing was built around the idea of a single household with each household having a single decision maker. In today’s world, however, the household structure is far more complex. There are now multiple decision makers interacting across multiple devices in both linear and digital modes. Given this dynamic, it has become very difficult to design an accurate picture of today’s consumer behavior at the individual level.

Imagine your own home. Do you have each family member consuming information on different devices? When you share a Netflix account with your children—and they use the shared tablet more than you—are you served recommendations for Nickelodeon TV shows? When the kids use the household PC, are they served advertisements that pertain to your profile? How can today’s marketers navigate this world effectively?

In 2008, television video delivery was linear. Content was developed and distributed through a small set of partners into your living room on a flat TV. Similarly, content for PCs was developed specifically for online viewing with specific formats. These were generally short-form videos, distributed through ISPs onto the actual PC device. But then the world of delivery and content converged, allowing you to access linear show-type content directly through digital platforms and vice versa.

As marketers look to continue to deliver relevant content at the right time in the right context (across devices), there will be far-reaching implications. Take as an example the hospitality industry. At a recent internal conference for a well-known international hotel brand, we discussed the idea of the in-room television being just a screen; there is no need for a hotel to have a cable contract anymore because people bring their own content with them when they travel. Consumers now have the ability to deliver digital content to any linear television with Airplay, Chromecast, or a Fire TV stick. You can see how these worlds are really starting to collide in our everyday lives.

I don’t think anyone is surprised that experts are forecasting that mobile will take the lead over PC usage in the next two to three years. But, when we begin to think about the impact of creating unique cross-channel experiences for consumers with mobile at the center, we easily see the conundrum emerge. Current mobile channels aren’t sufficiently traceable or addressable. Technology is improving on this, but in order to capitalize on this trend, we’ll need to bridge this gap better as consumers put mobile channels at the center of their lives

The introduction of wearables—Apple’s iWatch, for example—will also cause marketers to rethink the type of information they should collect and how to use it. It’s worth noting that the amount of data will increase exponentially as we start to capture individualized health and activity data. The opportunity, however, is to ultimately leverage behavioral insights to customize and deliver personalized experiences that consumers seek.

Let’s explore a theme park example: theme park marketers are already introducing wrist bands that promise consumers a secure and hassle-free visit by providing access to their hotel room, checking in at a roller coaster, uploading and sharing images of their visit, or even charging food directly to their credit card account. Imagine the opportunities to leverage our learnings to deliver targeted custom experiences inside the park. And even more interesting, to continue to deliver those “park-like” experiences after they return home.

When we map these consumer experiences to a matrix framework, the first axis aligns with the who/where—who we’re targeting and where they will be most receptive. Then we must evaluate the experience dimension on the next axis. On the left side of the experience dimension exists a static experience, while the right side represents a “real” experience or an experience that a consumer is unable to separate from reality. Though the opportunity to drive impact is greater on this right side of the spectrum, it becomes much more difficult to execute.


Let’s apply this thinking to the challenges that entertainment and media marketers are facing today:

  • Theme park marketers: Hundreds of marketing campaigns are running at the same time and—depending upon your reach—these campaigns can be national or even global. You may even have a different campaign for each brand within your park. So your challenge is getting to that individual consumer within a household of multiple people across multiple devices and being able to tell your brand’s digital story seamlessly across those devices. How do you address that today?
  • Online video and gaming marketers: In an industry where both children and parents are targeted, marketers must know the line of what’s appropriate and what is not, as well as how to target content and how not to. Again, it’s really important to understand whom you’re delivering messages to within the household.
  • TV networks: These marketers are faced with a very different challenge. In their world, a transaction is when a consumer views their content. However, they do not own this point-of-sale. So, if TV networks don’t have access to their point-of-sale, how can they use the set-top-box data to create a closed loop environment for marketing to ultimately understand the impact of their efforts? Until now it’s been very hard to get a good read on this ecosystem, but it’s getting easier.
  • Movie marketers: Similar to TV networks, they do not have access to box office sales at an individual level. However, we are starting to figure out ways to use predictive techniques to help forecast opening weekend numbers using social data and activity.

These are just some of the challenges facing today’s travel, media, and entertainment industry marketers. Marketers must not only overcome technical data implications, but they must also gain new marketing competencies. Some of the more critical skills to focus on in 2015 will be: identity management, consumer privacy/compliance, measurement/attribution, audience management, media/channel optimization, as well as data-driven experience design.