Converged media solutions give digital publishers an edge | #BizInsight with Howsit MSN’s Marcus Stephens

glambition-jo-ann straussOffering advertisers integrated media buys that include digital advertising as well as other media such as print, radio or television, is a powerful way for premium digital publishers to compete in a world where online advertising rates are under pressure and content has become commoditised.So says Marcus Stephens, GM of Howzit MSN, one of South Africa’s largest web portals. He believes that digital publishers who successfully package their content and advertising solutions as part of converged media bundles, can get an edge in the market by helping their clients to achieve better return on investment.“Advertisers don’t want to simply buy ads in different media anymore,” he says. “They want to drive their campaigns in a more integrated manner so that the different mediums can intensify and reinforce their messaging. For example, they’re thinking about how elements such as social media can amplify broadcast campaigns or how banner ads can drive engagement with search.”

Howzit MSN works with progressive clients such as Unilever on converged campaigns, he adds. The Kagiso Media-owned portal is working with eTV and lead sponsor Unilever on Glambition – a show where Jo-Ann Strauss, former Miss South Africa and renowned TV personality, celebrates the beauty and success of African women.

Says Stephens: “Glambition brings together a range of powerful brands, creating massive talkability and interest. The online elements – including the social conversations and the content we host – amplify the sponsor’s message and generates huge appeal in the television show. This in turn builds a powerful branding effect that adds up to far more than the sum of its parts.”

“Unilever identified that there was a real lack of credible, engaging and entertaining African content that celebrated the beauty and achievements of African women.  Glambition was a market-first  in terms of actual content origination, content partnerships and  multiple content platform usage,  going against the traditional broadcast  AFP and display advertising model, while leveraging heavily on social integration,” says Nazeer Suliman, Unilever’s CCM Director for Sub Saharan Africa.

For Howzit MSN, the key is understanding the client’s goals and how the greater media mix can help to get the optimal results from its advertising spending, Stephens adds. “This is an example of how publishers must evolve and transform to offer their advertising clients better value,” Stephens says.

Another important element digital publishers must master is customer data. “Our clients are starting to demand that we share data at a more granular level than ever before. Gone are the days when they were satisfied with clickthrough data only,” says Stephens. “They want to understand the customer journey in great detail so that they can optimise campaign messaging and spending across their marketing mix.”

This obviously means that digital publishers need to spend more time with media planners and buyers at every point of the campaign. It’s all about creating a true solutions environment with multiple media touchpoints, backed up with the data and tools to plan, measure and report on performance.

“The trend we’re seeing in the marketplace is that advertisers want to work with publishers who are well-informed about their target audience and truly understand their role in the bigger ecosystem,” Stephens says. “This is the key to digital publishers driving added value from their advertising inventory and growing their revenues.”

@HowzitMSNAbout Howzit MSN: Published by Kagiso Media, Howzit MSN is one of the largest web portals in South Africa. The portal is the South African associate of Microsoft’s MSN family of Internet services, which attracts more than 3.14 million unique users around the world each month.

Howzit MSN is South Africa’s leader in providing quality web content to consumers and powerful online advertising solutions to marketers. It attracts a large mainstream audience with its core news service as well as several niche audiences with specialised content. For advertisers, Howzit MSN offers a wide range of ways to target audiences including the homepage, news, sports and lifestyle. This is complemented by globally popular social advertising platform Skype.

For more info visit  Twitter: @HowzitMSN

About Marcus Stephens, GM of MSN Sub Sahara Africa

Marcus spent his formative years in the traditional media industry as a media strategist, working for leading media and advertising businesses such as TBWA Hunt Lascaris, Mediacom and Draft FCB. Retained by multi-national, banking, brewing and tobacco brands, he quickly established a solid reputation for comprehending and converting clients’ needs via innovative marketing solutions, far exceeding their goals and aspirations. Marcus walked away with his first reward in 2002 where he was pivotal in winning the APEX award for bidorbuy’s Best Media Launch Campaign in the online retailer section.

More recently, Marcus headed up a digital media specialist company, driving its new business development efforts, before successfully repositioning the commercialisation of Avusa Media Live’s online and mobile businesses.

In 2010 Kagiso Media appointed Marcus as General Manager of Microsoft’s locally operated MSN portal. Under his leadership, the portal has grown in all key performance areas leading to Microsoft’s announcement of expansion into Kenya and Nigeria in mid-2013.

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