Are publishers being squeezed out of the media ecosystem as big brands figure out ways to reach customers themselves? Not at all, according to IBM's top marketer in the UK.
Caroline Tayor, IBM's VP for communications in the UK and Ireland, told the AOP's first B2B conference on Wednesday that even though big brands are developing their own advertising tools that cut out publishers, nothing will replace the engagement and connections to readers that publishers offer.
"I'm telling you this because I think there is a trend in some discussions at some conferences that would suggest that the worlds of publishing and advertising have become less relevent a to people like me," she says. "But I would counter that: I think you have more to offer to me than ever before."
"Actually the influence potential that you have to influence the people I need to interact with has never been greater. All of a sudden the web and digital revenue is actually giving you access to worlds that you never had before and I'd like a piece of that action."
Taylor emphasised that it was brand impact and engagement that she is after - and it's publishers who have the all-important relationships.
In quite a memorable soundbite, she asked rhetorically: "Who would I trust more, the FT or IBM? It's the FT - and I work for IBM."
Only modern businesses need apply
BUT, she adds, Taylor only wants to do creative and forward-thinking publishers. Anyone that wants to sell a simple ad space in a magazine can go to the back of the queue. The concept of the marketing funnel - the idea of below the line and above the line - is utterly redundant, she says. "I have news for you: there is no line."
Asked whether companies like IBM are cutting out publishers through running their own private ad exchanges and building their own relationships with audiences (as argued by our columnist Peter Kirwan recently) she responded:
"At the risk of being rude we're at the risk of cutting out the old-fashioned publishers... We're doing things that you used to do for us, but you're doing new stuff that we can't."
By way of example, IBM partnered with Wired in a campaign centred around the TED series of events. Taylor says he could have gone to TED herself and sealed an ad campaign, "but Wired significantly amplified our relationship with TED many, many times through engagement in the magazine, online and at the event."
So what replaces the funnel? It's a circle with four parts: inspiring confidence in IBM products, changing clients' beliefs, being an advocate for the company and turning all that into action.
"If you think about the role that you have played down the years working with people like me I hope you see that there's an opportunity for you to work with me on every one of these," she says.
A study of 1,730 CMOs by IBM found that 79 percent of them expect high complexity in the market for the next five years, but only 48 percent felt suitably prepared for that change. According to Taylor that means there's a 31 percent complexity gap. "That's something that we, you, can help them with."
From B2B to B2P
The differences between the B2B and B2C sectors are evaporating, says Taylor. The way consumers and corporate executives make expensive purchase s are much the same. And in any case, "the debate about B2B and B2C is no longer relevant - it's all about business-to-people, B2P."