Friday, November 24, 2006

Essay 1362

The final issue of Marketing y Medios greets readers with a letter (depicted above) from publisher Wright Ferguson, Jr. The message speaks with all the warmth and sincerity of an eviction notice — and for subscribers and fans, that’s essentially what it is.

Ferguson unveils the plot to fold Marketing y Medios, while literally trying to sell subscriptions to VNU trade magazines (Exclusively available for a limited time at special discounted rates of just $79! Plus, act now and VNU will toss in a Best Hispanic Spots 2006 DVD — a $95 value — absolutely FREE! Hurry, operators are standing by!).

The letter opens by proclaiming, “With the changing face of America, it’s now more important than ever to understand who your audience is and have the ability to meet its diverse needs.” It’s always peculiar to hear such revelations from key figures of an industry constantly demonstrating cultural cluelessness on nearly every level imaginable.

Ferguson then announces the strategy to seed Marketing y Medios content as Special Reports within sister titles Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek. According to Ferguson, “Research shows this concept will better serve the Hispanic marketplace, and many of you have applauded this decision.”

Yes, the spirited and rowdy ovations have been deafening.

And, gee whiz, we all know how research ultimately inspires the wisest course of action — although it would be nice to peruse the PowerPoint summary report supporting Ferguson’s case. Additionally, it’s semi-ironic that multicultural advertising agencies are often handcuffed with insufficient resources for research, yet VNU uncovered insights to validate eliminating one of the few multicultural marketing publications in existence.

Ferguson’s ramblings about expanded visibility and increased circulation are undoubtedly rooted in bottom-line thinking. The motivations appear to be focused on offering extra ad space and consolidating subscription dollars. While reaching a broader audience aids VNU’s multicultural efforts, Ferguson fails to exhibit a tangible benefit for current readers. Now we have the convenience of purchasing up to three magazines at higher prices to enjoy condensed versions of Marketing y Medios. Gracias, SeƱor Ferguson!

To confirm the questionable nature of this entire fiasco, Marketing y will keep running, with schemes to enhance the overall design and e-mail newsletters. If blending the magazine content is such a breakthrough idea, why not employ a similar tactic with the online components?

Ferguson argues, “If we increase the flow of general market money into the Hispanic marketplace, everybody wins, Hispanic marketers and consumers alike. By highlighting smart marketers, agencies and media who are leading the way in bridging the markets, you will profit from this change we are implementing.”

Who is Ferguson really addressing here? Can we expect VNU profit checks in our mailboxes soon?

The attempt to season VNU’s corporate-based maneuver with a “do the right thing” flavor is downright distasteful.

Stating that the allegedly improved format means “Marketing y Medios will educate the general marketplace on what’s vitally important in the Hispanic marketplace” is bizarre too.

No one would deny exposing the general market audience to the wonders of the Hispanic marketplace is cool. Especially since the general market audience generally remains narrow-minded and ignorant on “the changing face of America.” Besides, Hispanic marketing deserves a bigger spotlight. But there’s so much about this VNU affair that simply stinks.

The ballyhooed mutual rewards of the grand rearrangement seem imbalanced. The Hispanic marketing community loses a premier publication. The general marketing community gains a complimentary monthly insert.

Pardon the overreaction, but it feels like — as opposed to more strongly inviting the general market audience to join the Marketing y Medios fiesta — the Hispanics are being forced to assimilate into the outdated majority arena.

The Hispanic marketplace is growing at an incredible rate. The attention it warrants should be proportionately amplified. Slipping Marketing y Medios excerpts into general market publications did not necessitate erasing the magazine. Hell, providing samples to a larger audience might have fueled greater interest in experiencing the whole enchilada.

Ferguson and his cronies aren’t doing anyone a favor with this direction. Technically, Hispanic editorial coverage should have been inflated to establish VNU’s journalistic credibility and responsibilities.

There are minimal indications that the industry is moving towards legitimate integration. There are less signs of general market money flowing into the Hispanic marketplace. Advertising agencies remain separate and unequal. These are critical issues demanding thoughtful, proactive deliberation and measurable executions.

Launching Marketing y Medios in 2004 looked like a thoughtful, proactive venture. Killing it in 2006 is a miserable execution.

Ferguson closes the letter by writing, “And we plan to continue delivering on our promise to all of you.” All of you can reread the letter forever — you’ll find zero references to any promise.

Unfortunately, empty promises are status quo in the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.


Visitors are invited to review the eulogy for Marketing y Medios by clicking on the essay title above.


Anonymous said...

HighJive, as always, your insights are right on the money. There seem to be so many inconsistencies with this new direction and just more proof that VNU has absolutely no idea what it is doing -- other than attempting to inflate the bottom line.

If there's a silver lining in all of this, it's the fact that media consumption is rapidly moving away from print and into electronic distribution.

Marketing Y Medios is a revered publication, even by its competitors, and hopefully its online publication will continue to be the industry leader as it maintains its standalone independence.

HighJive said...

The other thing to consider is the physical symbolism that will be lost. To walk into the lobby of an advertising agency — multicultural or general market — and see a copy of Marketing y Medios among the obligatory stack of assorted reading material made a powerful statement. That statement will be eliminated when the content is inserted into the sister publications.