Inside the Mix

Media agencies' endorsement of Stewart highlights their might in the marketing mix

Media agencies' endorsement of Stewart highlights their might in the marketing mix

After a couple of years of widespread Martha Stewart-bashing, it seems that one group of people in particular is displaying faith in her status as the face of Martha Stewart Living (MSL) magazine, the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and very much a continued power in her own right, rather than as the washed-up ex-offender that many have painted her to be.

This group is the Madison Avenue media agencies. These people are writing multimillion-dollar checks on behalf of the world's largest companies before breakfast and standing behind Stewart's somewhat ham-fisted plea to serve her time before spring's warm fingers bring life to her garden without her.

The Wall Street Journal, among other media outlets, reported that many buyers were hoping to renegotiate their deals now to secure favorable discounts ahead of Stewart's release from jail. Whether or not advertisers are skittish about the association with Stewart's eponymous magazine, media specialists appear confident that her eventual return will be a positive event for the magazine - and its ad pages.

Robin Steinberg, VP, director of print services for MediaVest USA, thinks advertisers will come back once Stewart returns. "She's good at [heading MSL]. That's why advertisers came to the magazine in the first place," she says. Steinberg notes that MSL can be a key media buy; while most duplicate an audience, at MSL, media buys reach their target in a niche environment.

It's important to consider the role that media specialists play when it comes to advertisers' attitudes to media outlets, as it affects PR, too. After all, it's unlikely that a company's PR team will strive for placement in a magazine that its advertising colleagues know to be a poor fit for the product. The middle men between the brand team and the magazine - the media specialists - are essentially a company's investment advisers and, as such, will likely shape the company's attitude toward a particular media outlet, network, and even parent company.

But more important, it's these people, too, who frequently play a key role in deciding whether or not a PR effort is warranted in any given situation. "In the wacky world of fragmented media, the media palette is huge," says Colin Gottlieb, European CEO of Omnicom media agency OMD. "You've got a whole range of things you can look at, from ambient media, event programming, through to digital, traditional channels, and everything in between. If I were a client, I would desperately want my media specialist to advise me on the benefits or otherwise of a particular media channel and what it may say about my brand, and how an audience is likely to receive it." These channels include PR placement, and these people will advise on that.

Media specialists are very, very rarely mentioned in PR circles, even in conversations about integrated marketing. But these people have a staggeringly deep knowledge of the media and, more important, the way a consumer interacts with media outlets, from niche to mainstream. An incredibly rich client experience can be provided by a brand PR team creating a strategic relationship with the people advising clients to spend money in the same place where PR is creating editorial opportunities for free. And next time a PR department is seeking to hire a media guru, it would do well to consider looking to the media agencies.

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