Media Fragmentation

Explain the term 'media fragmentation' and discuss the implications for a new product trying to enter the market.

Today's consumers are being blasted with more and more television channels, and a constant stream of new magazines that hit the news stands every week. Combine this media explosion with an increasing level of ad avoidance, and the future for some more "traditional" media might seem bleak. Over the last decade, life for marketers and media planners has been made difficult by the accelerating fragmentation of the media market Consumers have a greater choice of what to watch, listen to or read. Therefore advertising has to spread further, covering multitude of channels to gain the same exposure (Croft, M. 1999).

The general public are consuming a wider range of services across a greater range of devices. No two individual’s media behaviour is the same. This is a result of the multi-track media society that is continually developing and changing. The implications of this media fragmentation for individuals and marketers are profound. This fragmentation of audiences is not homogeneous; some people find themselves left behind. The take-up rates of digital television and the internet have been strikingly different according to age and socio-economic group, leaving some groups excluded from the revolutionary growth in media choice (www.bbc.co.uk). 

Media fragmentation is increasing with a new devices; PVR will allow the viewer to control their television via time-shifting, and ad-skipping. This will be a huge money spinner for the company, Sky Plus, has already been installed in 397,000 homes in the UK. This has major implications for the future of TV advertising. The media fragmentation have already put the squeeze on TV's share of advertising, the PVRs will seriously compound this, further fragmenting the audience (Marketing Week. Aug 26th, 2004).

This is discussed as a second wave of fragmentation, the multifunction era, where the audience differs widely in its TV use depending on the features and functions they have available. Being able to segment audience by ownership of technology will become increasingly important for advertisers. Media fragmentation has led to consumers’ unprecedented control over the information and entertainment, this impact on traditional advertising, which relies on interruption tactics to gain consumers’ attention (Groucutt, J. et al 2004)

There are diminishing shared experiences, with a fragmented media world, it is now harder than ten years ago to attract large audiences to programmes. Although some recent events have brought in bigger audiences than forecasted an example is the Queen’s golden Jubilee, which suggests that people are still drawn to large national events and experiences that can be shared with many others. Television has lost the ability to bring the nation together on a daily basis, but on national events they could become more valuable over the coming years (www.bbc.co.uk).

This media fragmentation has other implications for the viewer; the quality of the programmes can be reduced as resources are stretched. A consequence of the new television channels in the UK is the companies will only be able to invest modestly in original content. This problem will be compounded by reduced advertising revenue. This could end in a large “turn off” by customers, not wanting to continually watch repeats (Perkin, N. 2003) 

The success of the launch of any new product with the large scale fragmentation of the media will depend on the skill of the marketing department. Although the role of the marketer is becoming ever more complex, the skilled practitioner can introduce the product in various mediums. Each of which will be discussed individually for their merit. Traditional advertising still remains a popular medium but there is a need to expand the mediums to reach increasingly hard-to-reach people. Traditionally advertising has focused on a television world, which now has diminishing returns, advertisers are willing to be more proactive and look at new ways to leverage the market, both creatively and financially.

The process of developing, positioning and placement of a new product follows the traditional methods of marketing. Qualitative and quantitative methods for collection and analysing the data will help to target the audience and position the brand. The major change is in the advertising of the product, with fragmentation within the media, approaches are changing, some out of favour methods revisited and revamped to compliment the launch of the product (Groucutt, J. et al 2004).

A decade ago it was forecasted that advertising would be in long-term decline, although this is not the case. It was argued that the fragmentation of television channels will make mass communication impossible, therefore no mass communication, no mass demand. In reality these problems never had much foundation. The explosion of consumer choice has left the customer in need of advertising to help them choose Advertising not only enables the consumer to decide on products before they reach the store, but also reassures them after purchase that they have made the right decision (Fletcher, W. 2005).

Two issues from consumers have been drawn from the ITC Survey (The Public's View 2002). The survey concluded that consumers want to be entertained by advertising, but are annoyed by the poor quality. The key to advertisers is to get the message across to that indefinable but often influential relationship between the medium and its audience When the consumer chooses to watch advertising, they expect a high standard of entertainment (Perkin, N. 2003).

Television advertising in the past was viewed as presenting tremendous communication opportunities, but the wide coverage caused wastage. Media fragmentation does have advantages to marketers, although the target audience is less, they are fragmented into better profile groups. The growth in both specialist magazines and television channels has made it easier to locate and define the segment. This is cost effective, as a higher proportion of the audience reached are interested in the product, therefore the response rate is higher (Brassington, F. & Pettitt, S. 2003)

Traditional television advertising still has a place, but the medium is changing, new products are introduced through sponsorship of individual programmes. Products and product ranges are increasingly used in sponsorship and advertiser funded programme; this benefits both the broadcasters and marketers. A new products profile can be increased quickly with a successful partnership. This investment in the programme making ensures new material is broadcast to the viewer (Marketing Week. Aug 26th 2004).

Reducing uncertainty by understanding the customer needs and accurate targeting is vital for survival of a product. Targeting commences with the acceptance that not all customers are equally important. The recent interest in fusion reflects attempts to link a database that is designed for market research (MRI) with another database that focuses on media (Nielsen). Researchers use complicated statistics to find matching partners who are alike on a broad range of demographic "hooks." The result is a new "fused" database in which each record combines the marketing information from one study with media data from the other (Prasanna, P. 2004).

Product placement and co-marketing deals between advertisers and movie studios have been going on for years; these arrangements are on the increase Products are used as props, and are regarded as part of the entertainment. These partnerships could lead to even more inspired integrated marketing schemes. Advertisers are increasingly careful with product placement, preferring to redefine it as product or brand integration, avoiding viewer tune-out by of more conventional advertising (Gray, R. 2001). 

Viral marketing was a tactic used for trendy brands, it is increasingly acknowledged to be as effective as traditional advertising. Advertising the product by word of mouth, utilising individual’s communication networks, and relying on their personal recommendations to sell the product. This method has been used to launch new products, Ford, gave away Focus cars to fashionable young people in an attempt to target certain drivers for its recent launch in the US (Carter, M. 2001). Companies actively seek viral marketing, fuelling discussion on their products. But if the consumer has had a bad experience with a product this will also be spread via their networks (Groucutt, J. et al 2004).

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New product development, where a brand name is extended to embrace new products that have a close affinity with the original products, has always been a popular option. Recently there has been a shift towards a more radical kind of brand extension. Media fragmentation has made it harder to reach consumers with brand messages; therefore expanding the product range is viable option for the large organisations that are already household names. But this factor will limit the entry to the market of new products from small or new producers (Gray, R. 2001). 

An example of this is Tescos, who have expanded into financial services; this is advertised in their stores, on the internet and through the media. Posters and leaflets in the store pass the information to the consumer whilst they shop. Media fragmentation has not affected their product launches, there is a captive audience of loyal shoppers, that view these products as an extension of the brand they know (Gray, R. 2001).

One of best opportunities for gaining knowledge on a target audience is the medium itself. There is a multitude of magazines, focusing on segmentation of the audience. Media owners offer planners a route to market, insights into their audience and how to best to connect with them. Magazine editors write for their target audience week-in week-out is effectively marketing their product. This advice can be utilised to ensure correct targeting, positioning and advertising of product (Perkin, N. 2003).

When launching a new product one of the biggest obstacles is brand awareness, competing with established products that are household names. Samples of a new product can be distributed through magazines, although the targeted customer profile is quite small. Although the audience is small, the response can be significant. New computer games are often distributed as playable demos through specialist magazines; this whets the appetite of the potential consumer. This has proved a successful marketing strategy when the game is launched; demand is high for the product (Brassington, F. & Pettitt, S. 2003).

Radio as a media has been through the fragmentation experience and has come out the other side; almost all UK households are now able to choose from at least 12 radio stations. Radio has been described as a low-tech medium, listening figures show that it is blooming in the fast changing media market. Despite the choice of radio stations listeners are loyal to particular stations, with adults in the UK listening to an average of only 2.4 stations. Whereas other media is suffering from a knock-on effect of recent technological developments, with consumers being more elusive and harder to reach in mass, large audience segments can still be targeted on commercial radio stations (Croft, M. 1999) 

Radio also has much lower level of ad avoidance than other mediums, a survey conducted by Western International Media, concluded that only 16 per cent of respondents actively sought to change channels when adverts were on. Radio listening typically takes place on low-quality radios, i.e. in the bathroom, bedroom or kitchen, where there is no other competing media and people are more likely to be doing something on their own (Croft, M. 1999).

Commercial radio stations have targeted audience with the type of entertainment they offer. This segmentation of the audience is in broad socio-economic grouping and can be regional, allowing the product target to be identified. Although radio is not as valuable as television in terms of the reach, frequency of the advert is higher. This form of advertising can add a supportive role to a new product (Brassington, F. & Pettitt, S. 2003).

Sponsorship of sporting events is recognised as a strong medium in advertising for two reasons. Firstly, it focuses on one platform, such as a sporting event rather than a media channel. Secondly sponsorship's has the ability to connect with consumers by adding value to their activities and interests. Finding out how consumers would respond to a particular sponsorship should not only reveal what property a brand should sponsor, but what form that sponsorship should take. Although sponsorship, like all marketing activity, has to prove its worth, consumers are central to a sponsorship strategy Targeting the correct event, will take a lot of research, and the exposure is only short lived (Crow, T. 2003). 

Market positioning is important to the launch of a new product. With the entire media overload the consumer can have a closed mind to the product; new products should be unique, and supported by imaginative and really creative advertising. Advertising saturation is phenomenal and media fragmentation is growing Consumer media habits are so diverse, that several mediums need to be targeted to achieve the levels of brand awareness and recall desired. This naturally leads to higher communication budgets and also to waste in advertising spread (Prasanna, P. 2004). Although it is more expensive to produce multiple creative treatments, it can be successful, brands such as Absolute Vodka discovered when applying this strategy (Perkin, N. 2003)

As multi channel media increases in popularity, the problem of advertisers is to ensure that a campaign reaches its intended audience. When discussing today's media consumer, there are a lot of hyphens Used. Perkin, N. (2003) described them as “media-blitzed, ad-cynical, time-poor, channel-flicking audience living in a fast-paced, attention-challenged world” The reality is that consumer behaviour has essentially changed. Today’s consumers are in control of what they want to watch, read and therefore what advertising they expose themselves to (Perkin, N.2003).

Companies were surveyed to review any changes in their advertising policies when introducing new products. These companies included Barclays, Telewest Communications, Cadbury Schweppes and Whitbread The consensus of opinion was that media fragmentation had relatively little impact on marketing strategies when introducing new products. Although there are potentially obstacles in the context of targeting mass audiences, it opportunities to communicate to more tightly defined clusters of consumers, something the direct marketing industry has been advocating for years (Kleinman, M. 2000).

Direct marketing has rapidly increased as a method of targeting consumers; this is a result of the changing nature of the customer, the environment and the technological developments. (Brassington, F. & Pettitt, S. 2003). The key to successful direct marketing is targeting, although this can be its downfall. The ability of the marketers to identify the correct audience for the product is vital to the success of the campaign (Groucutt, J. et al 2004). 

With the uncertain environment, swamped with product choice launching a new product has become even more fraught with danger. Once the product is passed the development stage, success of the launch is down to advertising. All forms of advertising should be reviewed, and utilised if they are cost effective. The rapidly changing environment of advertising has been forced by a technological revolution in home entertainment. Media fragmentation has reduced the total audience, but has the benefit of increasing segmentation. A multiple approach to advertising for a product launch will increase the audience capture, raising awareness of the product.

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