Paying for Earned Media. How to get the Buzz going

I've been reading a lot recently about the buzz around 'earned media'. A lot of digital agency heads now write about developing beautiful social campaigns that replace 'paid media' with their organic social media efforts – which in essence uses the power of earned media. What I don't read as frequently however is their position on how they get the buzz going on these 'earned' campaigns. Do these auto-viralize? Are they so inherently powerful that there is zero effort outside the social campaign? Is it as simple as 'if you build it, they will come'?

While we all seem to recognize the power of social media, we haven't quite comfortably delved into the area about how to get those campaigns going. When a certain campaign runs around a powerful social platform – and this power can come from any part of it that gives it viral turbo charging – I can understand how it takes off. But when we agency folks have the responsibility of delivering campaigns that have to work with brands, and sell their products, we cannot simply fall back on auto-viral. Unless the campaigns have some incredibly funny elements that people feel compelled and proud to share (or they see a pot of rewards), it's not easy. If it has a social and moral push to it, even the funny bits are not needed. But brand campaigns that rely purely on earned media? Who knows then that you've built it? How will they come?

I feel it has to be a combo deal. Yes, we can rely on the power of social or earned pushes, but in most cases (yes, there are exceptions), a paid push is needed. If we have an idea that has viral potential, and we know in the gut that it will take off, and even early metrics show that it is on upwardly mobile mode, it's probably time to kick in with a bit of a paid spend. Take P&G's mega successful Old Spice social campaign built around the beefy Old Spice Man. P&G used a hefty $11 million+ to push the campaign. That's what helped create the buzz around the Man. Sure they used data in real time to make ads more sharable and interesting, but they put real dollars behind it. The result? Neilsen says they had a double digit increase in sales.

In the end, I come back to my favorite buzz word – integration. Consumers react better to campaigns that surround them across media. What they see on tv, hear on radio, see in magazines and newspapers – but which have the central pivot perhaps in the online domain – becomes an immersive experience. And they'll flow with it. As digital agencies, it is our responsibility to be true to the brands we service and go to them with real solutions that have genuine ROI. And the I in ROI is important. And the I in the ROI has often to be in paid media.

So, yes, we ought to work with our brands and develop creative social campaigns that have social viral power, but we have to recognize the importance of well thought out media planning and touch point strategies to enhance and multiply the power of a viral campaign. The more people who see it, the more the chances of them sharing it. It's simple really. This way, those of us in this business of advertising, no longer have to be held responsible for coming up pure earned ideas, because to earn something you have to work at it. And sometimes, working at it means planting the seed. And someone's got to pay for those seeds. There are no free lunches, and the last time I looked at the gardening section of my local hypermarket, there aren't free seeds either.

Post a Comment