Mark Ritson on branding: Isolated examples show power of marketing

Once a month we invite marketers from the London Business School Centre for Marketing to attend a session devoted to marketing debate and sharing best practice.

Last week's event was the Share of Pie Contest. Five thought leaders from five leading marketing communications industries were invited to address the audience for 10 minutes apiece to make the case for their respective communication tools. At the end of each presentation the audience rated the persuasiveness of the case by 'spending' a notional budget of £100 across the five speakers. The winning speaker was the one who obtained the biggest share of pie.

Andrew Mason, managing director of mOne and representative for direct marketing, began the proceedings. He made a subtle but persuasive case for taking an increasing share of the customer, rather than the market, and used measurability (as expected) to make a forceful case for the channel's supremacy.

He was followed by public relations, in the shape of Hill & Knowlton's Stuart Wilson. Wilson played an unexpected ace by showing the power of PR in influencing decision-makers in the B2B space.

He went on to deflect the expected barb that PR wasn't measurable by using a strong case study, and demonstrated the growing power of the medium in a convoluted and complex world. Wilson concluded with the outrageous (but true) statement that PR people are simply more fun. Things were heating up nicely.

Ian Millner, managing partner of Iris, waded into the debate in a manner entirely appropriate to the promotions industry.

Reminding the audience that it was ultimately all about behaviour, he went on to show just how effective promotions could be in driving everything from sales to brand.

Example after example flowed sweetly from his PowerPoint presentation as he adroitly dismissed his four competitors' claims with the proven, no-nonsense power of promotions.

Next up was Robert Senior, partner at Fallon. He was everything we expected from an advertising guru: brilliant, dynamic, persuasive and five minutes over his allotted time. But his case was wonderfully simple: bad advertising is dead in the water, but the rarer, good stuff is as powerful as ever. His show reels and sales data left us in no doubt about which form of advertising Fallon produces.

Calmest and coolest of all was Miles Murphy, chief executive of Red Cell Response. Barely raising his voice above a whisper he used hyperlinks and case studies to show that digital communications were everything we were promised. Murphy argued that digital communications are gradually encompassing all other communications tools, and his data on the growing reach of digital media resulted in audible gasps from the audience.

And then it was over. We drank wine and waited for the results. The winner? It was the audience. They got to see the very best marketing communications people in full flow and probably learned as much from the style as the substance of the presentations. It was fascinating to observe how each speaker's approach contrasted with one another and matched the communication tool they wield.

The speakers had all been briefed to take an 'isolationist' stance and, despite all professing unease at not being able to talk about integration, each seemed to enjoy the rare opportunity to trash the competition and make the case for their medium's supremacy.

It is ironic, but in an era of integrated communications, the first step toward this integration is understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each individual tool.

- Mark Ritson is assistant professor of marketing at London Business School

30 SECONDS ON ... WHERE THE MONEY REALLY GOES

- The latest Bellwether report from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising found that 35% of British marketing budgets were spent on advertising, which remains the single most-used marketing technique. But 28% is now spent on 'other' activities, including sponsorship, PR and events. 23% of budgets are devoted to direct marketing, 14% to sales promotion and 3% to internet marketing, the fastest-growing sector.

- Budgets for all disciplines rose during the third quarter of this year, with the exception of the 'other' category.

- A total of £17.2bn was spent on advertising last year. The biggest chunk of this (£8.3bn) went on press advertising.

- TV was the next biggest medium, receiving £4.3bn from marketing budgets.

- Despite its fast-growing status, internet advertising was worth only £376m of marketers' budgets.

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