Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The definition of a media channel

We've had a lot of fun with media planning for insurers over the past few weeks and it's brought up - or I should say resurrected - an interesting question... What's a media channel?

The reason it applies to insurers particularly at the moment is that insurance aggregator sites like Money Supermarket and are growing at a frightening rate. Frightening if you're a big name insurer who relies on brand recall and affinity to sell policies rather than being the cheapest in the market. Suddenly you're in a list with everybody else that makes this tactic extremely obvious.

Insurers pay aggregators a fee for every policy they sell. That fee comes from the advertising budget and I don't think that makes sense.

Are you advertising when you place your product on an aggregator? I'd argue that what you've done is more the equivalent of an FMCG brand getting stocked in a new supermarket. One where the profit margin is lower (because of the aggregator fee.)

Would you let marketing decide, on their own, whether your product should be stocked in ASDA or not, based on the profit margin? Of course you wouldn't.

There's a very blurred line between retail and advertising. Getting stocked in ASDA could well increase brand awareness because ASDA shoppers will see your product on the shelves, but that doesn't bring it under the remit of the marketing department.

How and when to use aggregators ahould be an all-stakeholder decision, with a budget that comes from outside marketing. Which definitely doesn't mean that marketing might not get their budget reduced as a result...

Marketing's job should be to get the maximum number of policies out of a presence on the aggregator - to create trust in the brand so that when it tops the list as cheapest, conumers will click on it and buy a policy.


everheardofaspacebar said...

Does the current thinking come down to the brand/direct marketing mix in the pre-aggregator days?

If there's an inherency of direct thinking in marketing teams, then Aggregators seem like a very nice, direct channel (CPAs to target, etc). And they know how to do direct marketing. FMCG doesn't have such a strong inherency (if any at all).

If you take the aggregator channel away and leave marketing teams with only brand to do, they might not do it very well.

In addition, if everyone else in the company also thinks in direct terms, it makes justifying brand spend that little bit harder.

I can see why marketing teams like to think of it as one of 'their' media channels.

Neil C said...

Think you're right. Aggregators have a cost per acquisition and are based on the web, so they 'feel' like web-based advertising.

I still maintain that they're not though.

To be honest, aggregators have grown so quickly, the insurers (who aren't really used to having multiple sales channels beyond phone and web anyway) aren't sure what to do with them, so they've landed in marketing by default.