Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Integration (and Growth) of the Online Channel

Although it's difficult to keep this perspective when you're immersed in the interactive world, the online channel really only represents a segment of the overall marketing mix, and thus, a percentage of total spend. The side-effect of this is that online often takes its direction from offline strategies, creative and messaging. The nature of this positioning has actual impact on the role of an Interactive Project Manager, which is what I'll discuss in this entry.

Is the web an afterthought?: Most online agencies are full of creative and ingenious people - people who provide incredible strategies and creative direction for online campaigns. Sadly, however, these people are also often handed direction by their clients' traditional agencies, posing a real limitation on original thinking. Although the web brings to life unique and deeper opportunities for consumer engagement, insight and extension of brand value. For a PM, this scenario means reigning in your team before any intensive ideation occurs, to ensure you have offline assets in-hand before going off in the wrong direction unknowingly.

Making friends with traditional partners: If your client works with offline agencies, the best thing you can do is position yourself in alignment with their efforts. Ask your client to share offline tactics with you. Always request to receive approved collateral- print pieces, television ads - anything produced for other media channels. All of these materials need to be reviewed and leveraged to create an online experience that delivers brand consistency and on-target messaging. You will also save your organization needless time and money spent strategizing concepts that may turn out to be off-brand.

Evangelize the difference!: As a Project Manager, you work very closely with clients and can influence their outlook. Always champion the unique benefits of the online channel. Don't fight the offline tactics - take them and push them further. The web is a reciprocal medium - a two way street that allows for the exchange of information with consumers. It is measurable and can also be refined based on metrics and analysis of performance - something that cannot happen as easily with traditional media.

Over time, the industry will see a shift in marketing dollars, where online receives an increased spend - in fact, it is already happening. Traditional marketing channels will not disappear, but the web will receive its due glory as clients scrutinize budgets and realize interactive media can better conclude ROI and also respond more quickly to change. The future is indeed bright for Interactive Project Management.

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