Omnichannel Convergence Does Not Mean the End of Channel Specialization

Media consumption is now taking place across a wider array of devices and channels. A person’s attention is omnichannel, and smart marketers are adjusting plans to this new reality.

Even though media has long been transacted and measured separately by channel, marketers need to think holistically about media investments as well as their own operations. Everyone in the value chain, from creatives to buyers to technology and measurement, faces pressure to become proficient in multiple channels at once. At a high level, the drive to break down silos makes sense.

It would be a mistake, however, to pursue this rush to omnichannel at the expense of the key role played by channel specialists. Media convergence does require new systems and processes, but it doesn’t render decades of institutional know-how obsolete. There are excellent specialists across the industry, and convergence does not require them to forego their specialization and become jacks of all trades. That would be foolish. Rather, it is a question of finding new ways for specialists to communicate and collaborate with one another, and providing them with the tools to make it a seamless transition.

Agree on Common KPIs at the Outset

Perianne Grignon is VP strategy at Mediaocean.

Guest blog author Perianne Grignon is VP of strategy at Mediaocean. (Image credit: Mediaocean)

One of the first ways to do that is at the pre-planning process, uniting all stakeholders at the outset around a set of universal KPIs. Individual media channels have different nomenclatures and diverse standards for success; one may view performance as engagement, another as view-through, another as conversion. Omnichannel requires that they all eventually resolve into a universal understanding of media performance.

Today, that work of resolution takes place once the campaign is done, and after channel specialists have optimized against their channel-specific KPIs. But there’s no need to wait until the campaign is finished. Engage channel specialists early and tap their understanding of how their efforts contribute toward that universal KPI.

Continue to Innovate Within Channels and Apply Insights  Across Channels

Operating across channels does not obviate the need to continue innovating and optimizing within individual channels. There are real differences between, say, linear TV and digital video, and while both must act in concert as never before, there are still methods and techniques unique to each one. TV buyers might become proficient in negotiating deals with networks, in spotting attractive inventory on the spot markets, advocating for pod placement, or in optimizing creative for the big screen. By the same token, digital video specialists will be more adept at navigating the much more diverse landscape of inventory, searching for higher-performing, brand-safe opportunities that may be measured by engagement instead of view through. These skills are not pitted against one another as they converge into a single omnichannel reality. On the contrary, they become more cross-functional and translatable. Specialists have a lot to teach one other.

Help the Sell-Side Break Down Its Silos

Marketers aren’t alone in facing the omnichannel imperative. Sellers are also under the same pressure, and face similar challenges in overcoming old habits of thinking of channels in silos.

The demand to be omnichannel is, at this moment, most acutely being felt by the agency and marketer. Sellers know they need to catch up, and many of the largest networks have. But there are still many other sellers who know that they've only been selling their own thing, and that they’re too specialized to a specific channel or property.

Brands and agencies will play a critical role in helping to bring more sellers along into this omnichannel world. It may not be a matter of selling more diverse inventory, more formats or more channels, but simply understanding how their inventory contributes alongside other types to achieve those universal KPIs.

Forget Absolutes and Focus on Practical Next Steps

The omnichannel imperative is real - and urgent - but it does not mean the end of channel specialists or specialization. Breaking down silos has become a common cause for the industry, but it is in many ways an ill-suited metaphor to the true task at hand. The convergence of media does not ask us to view digital marketing as a monolith, and to think so would be to ignore the wealth of intelligence and know-how that has gotten us to this point. It’s not a question of breaking down silos as much as building bridges and tunnels between them.

On the contrary, channel expertise will be more essential than ever before. Rather than meld them all together, it’s a matter of ensuring that expertise is communicated, socialized, and leveraged more collaboratively. Supported by technology with the right connectivity and power, omnichannel can liberate experts to do what they do best. ■

Perianne Grignon

Perianne Grignon is VP of strategy at Mediaocean, where she oversees go to market execution for agency solutions. Previously, Grignon co-led client engagements at Media Plus Advisors, where she managed media performance, vendor agreements, and consulting services. She also held executive marketing roles at Accenture, [x+1], and spent over a decade leading media strategy and digital innovation at Sears Holdings.