In this post I’m looking at the world of real multichannel advertising, and how brands can extend the impact of a TV
advertising campaign well beyond its airtime.

Earlier this month (May 2010), Bain & Company and the IAB concluded the final part of its year-long study into ‘Building Brands Online’.

The study (PDF) reports the need for brand advertisers to: ‘develop and utilise more innovative ad formats’; ‘cast a wider net for creative ideas’; and ‘drive cross-platform campaign integration’; in order to realise the real potential value of online advertising.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Brands spend an estimated £1.75 bn a year on online advertising in the UK, the majority of which is still spent on banner ads, ‘blind’ network advertising and, of course, search. Unsurprising, therefore, that the Bain and IAB report found that online advertising in its current format was failing to meet the expectations of brand marketers.

Online advertising, says the report, is valued by marketers, but they see it as a ‘call to action’ medium primarily (TV was still seen as the biggest ‘brand awareness’ medium).

But what’s really interesting is to consider the impact of merging the two things together; combining the awareness-driver with the (TV) with a direct response medium (online). Advertising nirvana: a brand campaign that lasts beyond the TV ad, and lets you measure its impact on sales, reputation or engagement with customers.

Welcome to the world of real multichannel advertising, that of extending the impact of a TV ad campaign. It can be done, just ask the nation’s favourite meerkat.

Creating a social media campaign that integrates with your advertising and marketing can add enormous returns but there are pitfalls. BBH’s Lynx Effect website, for instance, provides a sexy branded environment to showcase ads and combines it with some social tools to allow people to comment and share content.

But why not go the whole hog by creating a destination point for young men, optimised online and on mobile, which takes on a life of its own? Branded communities, supported by campaign-led Facebook and Twitter activities provide brands with a long-term footprint to learn from consumers and invite a meaningful interaction to shape the future of the brand.

Sure, it won’t work without support from other marketing channels, and the content needs to be compelling, but engaging destinations which position the brands as facilitators are on the increase. Pioneers such as Durex are leading the way, entertaining its target market and discovering more about them and its products but avoiding the sell-sell-sell mentality that goes against the grain of social spaces.

But (*whispered*) the truth is, there is an element of risk.

You might find out that the TV ad you’ve spent a year’s money on isn’t generating much interest, based on real metrics, rather than spurious ‘recall’ figures. Or that the product you’re spending a fortune developing and advertising isn’t selling very well.

Now, what could you do with that information?

   1.    Carry on regardless. Ignore the evidence, and say: ‘it’s all about the brand awareness, it isn’t about action’.
   2.    Change the ad campaign or product focus to reflect what your audience is saying, and make it more effective.

(Of course, if you used social media effectively before you launched your product, and brought customers in on the R&D process, you could test both the product and the ad before they go live, to see how they’ll be received. And save yourself a whole heap of bother in the process.)

Or, you might find out that you have a really loyal fan base who love your product, and who actively want to talk to you, buy from you, or associate themselves with you (Starbucks has 7.2 million fans on its official Facebook page. That’s 7.2m people it can sell more coffee to, without spending a dime).

Tayto’s, the Irish crisp brand, used a social media campaign to support the launch of an ‘autobiography’ for its iconic brand character, Mr Tayto. (Mr Tayto had his own microsite – – to promote the book, The Man Inside the Jacket, which drove crisp sales through promotions and offers. The book itself was a number one bestseller.) Using the kind of direct response tactics that online activity allows – such as vouchers and traffic sources – the brand could see exactly how well the social media element of the campaign was converting awareness into sales.

So, if you’re planning a big advertising campaign, consider how social media might help you convert awareness into action, and increase the long-term impact of your advertising. Get it right, and you could be onto a winner.