Photo: Richard E Grand in “How to get ahead in Advertising”
As anyone who reads my blog soon learns, I end each post with a poem. The purpose of the poem is to trap emotion. Poetry is emotion encapsulated in word. This blog is a record of my emotional state at any given point in time.
However, I learned something very new about the POEM this week. It is an analysis frame for tracking public relations communications in a firm.
The acronym stands for Paid, Owned and Earned Media.
Paid Media are the messages that we pay for, mostly falling under the terms “Advertising” and “Promotions”. Advertising is sometimes referred to as “Above the Line” ATL communications, with Promotions being “Below the Line” BTL.
There is a bit of debate surrounding the origin of the terms ATL and BTL. My preference is for the following explanation. Under the agency system an ad agency presented a bill to the client every month. The bill was in two parts above and below a line. The top part, ATL, billed the advertising creative and media placement for the month. In this section the ad agency would detail the full retail cost of the media placement if purchased on its own. Because ad agencies place large volumes in media, they receive huge discounts against the retail cost. They pass some of these discounts on to the client, depending on client size. For large clients they are able to display how much the client saved that month by being with the ad agency ( as opposed to making their own ads and buying retail price media space). So the bill to the Marketing Manager was traditionally presented as a saving. The ATL costs came from the Marketing budget.
Promotional activities are discounted from the cost of sales. So product vouchers, BOGOFs, 50% extra, half price offer etc all come from the sales budget rather than the advertising budget. So the Marketing Manager did not have to spend this money. As a result the BTL was of less concern.
With paid media you own the message but not the medium. You might advertise your alcohol product in the middle of a programme about alcoholism, or your beautiful auto ad might follow a road safety ad. The issue of message control, reach and message cost is central to media debates. As a rule the more expensive the medium is, the more control we have, and the less reach we have. We gain the greatest reach at the lowest cost in the media where we relinquish the most control.
Owned Media are those where we control both the medium and the message. A corporate website, an annual report, product brochures etc. In general it is not the kind of channel that sets the world ablaze, but we do retain ownership and control of both the medium and the message.
Earned Media is the bear trap. This is the place where we can gain column inches for free, but the story is not under our control. It may not be telling the message we want to get out there. At the high control end we have trade magazines, which beg for copy to generate interest in the publication. These publishers are unlikely to publish a savage dissection of a good advertising client. At the other end of the scale is social media, where audiences will routinely hijack your message for their entertainment. If this damages your company, brand or product they don’t care. In the past the earned media environment was dominated by PR companies who seeded the media with positive news stories, and who attempted some form of damage control when a negative story hit the presses. Nowdays it is increasingly in the digital space where sharing a squash club with a national newspaper editor carries no weight. In this space everyone is still learning.
The Advertising Poem
A man wakes up after sleeping under an advertised blanket,
on an advertised mattress, pulls off advertised pajamas,
bathes in an advertised shower, shaves with an advertised razor,
brushes his teeth with advertised toothpaste, washes with advertised soap,
puts on advertised clothes, drinks a cup of advertised coffee,
drives to work in an advertised car, and then, refuses to advertise,
believing it doesn’t pay.
Later when business is poor, he advertises it for sale.
Why is it?