Sounding Off: Kent Kirschner “Should Sports Illustrated be Selling Bikinis?”

Watching events unfold over the past few months around the Middle East has forced me to marvel yet again at the global paradigm shift that has been ignited by the evolution of communication technologies. Twitter and Facebook now sit squarely in the middle of our collective lives as ways to quickly and effectively spark fires. These fires have the power to topple governments in a matter of days!!!!   I couldn’t help but to feel a small amount of pride taken from the fact that many of these new tools were conceived and launched here in our country and have had such profound impact around the world. 

The US has always been an incubator of great ideas, technological advancement and new visions made reality. No question. But how often do we look abroad to see what developments are gaining traction in other parts of the world that could be exploited here? Obviously in consumer product spheres, software development, and in some cases pop culture we tend to import as a collective. But what about in the sphere of ideas and within disciplines? Specifically in media and advertising, how often do we play the role of student in the global classroom?

A few days back I had an opportunity to speak with Tomy Lorsch, co-founder of the Madrid based marketing firm, Findasense.   Findasense performs strategic consulting, media planning and internet marketing on behalf of its clients and specializes in country/regional entry for tech companies looking to grow in Europe.   Among their clients are Groupon, and Electronic Arts to name a few.   My interest in speaking with Tomy was to better understand some of the different tactics that his firm utilizes in helping to translate successful marketing programs.   Would a client like Groupon effectively replicate their US media strategy for new markets or would a dramatic revision be required?

The answer seems to be yes and no…..

For Lorsch, much of what is most compelling about the web today holds true in Europe and Latin America. Targeting delivers and the various networks perform similarly to how they fare here in the US with some subtle variations. But there are other, very intriguing opportunities that perhaps are not so readily available in this country.

“Partnerships with the media in the markets that we cover are fundamental to our work for our clients”, stated Lorsch. “Because our markets are much smaller relative to the US for example, we have a greater flexibility and imperative to work hand in hand with our media in the development of creative and mutually beneficial programs.”  

These partnerships sometimes go far beyond what is considered integrated marketing in our domestic landscape. In many cases both media and brand understand that a combination provides an incremental value that far surpasses a traditional advertiser/client relationship. Referral partner relationships, coops essentially, are ubiquitous throughout much of the media and advertising world outside of this country. So, instead of an advertiser paying a media for exposure through a variety of channels, what you would find are a media company and advertiser working together, and sharing in the spoils, of new revenue generation.

Occasionally we see examples of this type of relationship in the United States with media brands like Better Homes and Garden and independent publisher Dwell magazine perhaps best representing the potential. Dwell for instance has developed an incredible, annual live event and they are co-branding pre-fab homes for sale to their loyal reader base and beyond.  Just two examples of what might be considered the norm in other parts of the world, but seem revolutionary in this country.  

These types of moves appear to be symbolic of the types of challenges that traditional media giants will continue to face in the modern era. And they lead to some interesting speculation.

Will we see Sports Illustrated, for instance, begin to brand and market swimsuits?   Even more interestingly, will we find local media outlets developing new ways to outmaneuver competitors like Groupon by truly acting as a marketing agent, or reseller, of a product or service? If practices overseas are any indication, where today’s local challenges have always been the norm, then the answer is probably yes.

Kent Kirschner is Executive Managing Director of TRAFFIQ's Latin American team, and acting CEO of The Media Maquiladora