P/O/E — the slow death of a system

A bunch of people have started writing about how our illusion of paid/ owned /earned is slowly dismantling. Here’s two good examples 1 and 2. We all know that earned, that elusive add-on to a very good campaign, is steeped in the murkiness of process and measurements. How do you get earned? Dreamers will tell you that a good idea just flies and will point to the recent Nike ad featuring Deepika Padukone, which got picked up by multiple media outlets before any paid media was put behind it. Realists will tell you that you need some media to boost earned, or will point to rather confusing networks of social and informal influencers, seeding, etc, all things that a brand manager would shake their head confusedly at. Pessimists will say earned is an accident and no amount of planning will ever get you earned in a consistent and repeated matter.

And then there’s measurement: because there is no process, you can never really say how much and where it came from and, worst of all, you can never make any promises, set any meaningful KPI targets (although, famously, one agency built a business model on the promise that any video made and promoted by then would reach 2 mil views within a couple of days from launch).

But, as I mentioned above, earned is being discussed.

My concern is with owned.

What is owned media these days? Packaging, self-published magazines mailed to those interested, the WEBSITE, social media pages, newsletters. Can you feel the pain of that short, short list? Also, can you see how it’s almost a list of endangered animals? I’ve named self-published magazines thinking of major retailers and the Ikea catalogue but, to be honest, it’s not a piece of owned media worth thinking about, just as newsletters are no longer it either. Despite a recent “underground revival”, due to long form journalism, newsletters from brands remain painfully ineffective and meaningless. So we’re left with your website (including blog) and your social media pages.

If that’s the answer, then people will tell you that there is no owned in the age of social platforms. I’ve sat through elevator and long form pitches from everyone who now can boast millions of users and their pitch is always the same: people are here, do not try to take them elsewhere, put everything you need them to know right here. You do NOT need a website, they say. You only need to be where the people are.

But that scares me just a little but and it should you too. Back in my platform days, I used to work with hotels and their biggest worry was they had lost control of the relationship with their clients because they had lost control of the bookings. 1st part, 2nd party, 3rd party data — you need to understand that having direct access to your customers (not your prospects, just your customers) is important. You also need to be able to have a say in how your brand is built visually, and it will not be built properly if it is framed within the confines of another visual identity. But most importantly, your marketing needs to be a balance of paid and owned lest it become just paid. I am sure there’s some platform person out there who can prove to me the efficiencies of just paying over doing anything else, but just paying means no conversation. Just paying means you have given up on your brand. Just paying means you believe that people essentially hate you.

Earned needs to be rethought, indeed. But let me tell you, owned is not looking good either.

Digital Strategist. The Internet will save the world (pending verification). Views expressed here are my own/should not be construed as coming from my employer.

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