THE NEW “CAMPAIGN”
Contrary to what you may have heard or read, marketing campaigns aren’t dead; they’re just evolving. 

Step 1: Create a pretty print ad.
Step 2: Watch your marketing campaign take over the world.
Step 3: Count your burgeoning stacks of pennies as your brand also takes over said world.

It’s a lovely notion, and it may still work for the gang on Mad Men, but it’s hardly reality anymore. In today’s wireless, multimedia world, where consumers hold more cards than they did even a decade ago, it takes much more than a snappy slogan to captivate the consumer’s heart and mind.

The responsibility of people who buy advertising space for clients used to be this: put the right message in the right place at the right time, hopefully connecting with the desired target audience for the best price. “The world is completely different today,” says Lisa Harder, Owner/Partner of Human Element Communications, a team of marketing consultants who specialize in brand and communications strategy. “As media channels have grown exponentially and the consumer has become increasingly empowered by technology, the campaigns of old just aren’t relevant anymore.”

In her 12 years in the media and advertising agency business, Harder has seen an enormous shift in how companies craft their marketing campaigns. She attributes this change to a new breed of consumers who demand that brands tell richer stories in far greater depth.

For people like Blake Ebel—Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Fear Not, an advertising agency based in Denver—that rising consumer demand for rich storytelling has created a whole new set of challenges. Not only do consumers decide where and how they will digest brand content, they also decide how much. The rise in smartphones and the ability access the web anytime, anywhere has forced agencies and brands to modify their creative approach.

“Our job is to find consumers where they are through multi-channel targeting and give them the tools to engage with such brands,” says Ebel, who has led the creative for progressive brands like The North Face, Oakley and Audi. “Pinpoint the consumer, start a conversation and engage with them. We call it digitally infused storytelling.”

For brand themselves, this evolving, more intelligent consumer requires the organization to collaborate more closely; that means creatives, media buyers, PR, social media, CRM, sales and customer service all working together. By leaning on these specialized areas for their expertise, a brand no longer needs to tell its story in every media arena it plays in. Instead, brands are sharing their story across a number of channels and telling the parts of their story that fit the given medium. “They are letting consumers own and create parts of the story,” Harder explains. “Campaigns become multi-channel experiences that allow the consumer to get as involved, or not involved, as they choose.”

That’s where the guys like Ebel take over. He stresses that penetrating today’s smarter, more distracted consumers takes creative that is constructed with purpose, relevance, intelligence and succinctness. “It needs to drive interest,” he says. “Multiple touch points with unique messaging helps to build a story that consumers actually start to care about. What to say to them and how to say it is just as important as where and when.”

Due to an increased dependence on digital advertising to execute these multichannel campaigns, companies have come to expect real-time data that grades their marketing efforts and allows them to quickly adapt their messaging and their audience. Ideally every marketing organization would have this capacity, but that’s simply not the case. “The brands that are doing this well tend to be larger businesses that have well-established infrastructure and technology in place to gather this data and react to it,” Harder says, adding that many advertisers are unable to supply their media teams with the real-time data to actually make this adjust-on-the-fly capability a reality.

If collecting real-time data is not something your small business is capable of, it’s still important to accentuate the assets you have. At Fear Not, Ebel and his small, agile team use their size to their advantage, relying on online tools, social platforms, proprietary data from clients and insights they pull in every day from their own unique lifestyles to craft and analyze real-time data and knowledge for clients.

For a brand of any size to build a campaign comprised of many brand activities, mom’s childhood advice still holds true: look before you leap. Ask yourself what your objective is for each of your executions and how they contribute to your overall campaign. Some of your efforts may be five-day supporting acts, while others may continue on for months, but they should all have specific goals attached.

“Successful campaigns today go way beyond theme or message,” Harder says. “A campaign is a mechanism for a brand to infiltrate cultures. It’s a system of carefully orchestrated brand interactions designed to move people.”