Planning for synergy: Harnessing the power of multi-platform media

Campaign budgets can be easily wasted unless you actively plan for synergy, according to new research from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and CNBC.

Campaigns that include TV in their multi-platform media mix outperform those that omit television
Campaigns that include TV in their multi-platform media mix outperform those that omit television

The media world is complex and fragmented which makes returns from media budgets harder to maximise.

Media synergy creates value over and above that delivered by each individual media platform.

The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and CNBC have published new research to help media agencies and advertisers understand what types of synergistic effects can occur and explain how marketers can create the conditions conducive to achieving media synergy.

Many marketers talk about ‘media synergy’ without qualifying what this really means. This paper outlines how different media can piece together to create effective synergy and provides the context to help media planners underpin multi-media recommendations.

In a multi-platform media plan there are three possible outcomes. These are summative, synergy and antergy.

The conditions for synergy require smart goal setting and planning. 

Too much duplication in the media mix risks antergy, which is where the overall output is lower than the effort expended. This is a waste of media dollars.

If the output is summative, then you are not really optimising the use of multi-media over a single medium.

A decade of change

The global media sector has changed profoundly. Digital technology continues to create an explosion of media alternatives across the web and mobile.

New ways for consumers to interact are offered via social media and tablets. These changes offer exciting possibilities for advertisers.

However, more options make decision-making complex and increase the risk of wasting media dollars. Spreading budgets over more media does not necessarily lead to greater effectiveness, so smart planning matters.

Figure 1 presents results from a spirits brand campaign which employed 14 different activities over eight different media.

The post campaign evaluation revealed that of the 85% reach achieved, more than half of this was realised via one TV ad. 

Furthermore, only four activities were needed to achieve 76% reach, with the remaining ten activities only contributing an additional +9% reach points.

Therefore to make the most of the media budget it is important to ensure that these additional media are achieving benefits other than reach to justify the additional production and implementation costs. 

Fig 1: Multi-platform campaign reach

Source: Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, 2012

The power of television

The adoption of new technologies has expanded at a faster rate than our knowledge about how to leverage them.

Despite the explosion of new media, studies continue to endorse TV’s importance for advertisers (Rubinson, 2009; Sharp, Beal & Collins, 2009), and campaigns that include TV in their multi-platform media mix outperform those that omit television.

TV, where possible, should be the foundation media for any multi-platform campaign.

However, using TV alone often has limits and advertisers can therefore gain advantages through using multi-platform campaigns

Planting the seeds for multi-platform media synergy

To create the conditions that are conducive to synergy, advertisers need to select a media mix where the combination of media does at least one of the following:

  1. Builds cumulative reach more effectively.
  2. Broadens the timing and context of consumer touch-points.
  3. Provides enhanced repetition rather than just adding frequency.
  4. Enables a neuro-rich campaign to be developed.

Synergy Effect 1:  Build cumulative reach more effectively

Advertising can only impact the people it reaches. 1+ reach is key, and evidence to date shows that advertising’s greatest sales effect occurs when an individual moves from zero to one exposure (Wind and Sharp, 2009).

Subsequent close-by exposures can have a positive effect, but the impact is lower.

A multi-platform media mix needs to reach more people without wasting advertising dollars by hitting the same consumers multiple times with the same stimuli within a short window.

The lower the audience overlap among audiences exposed to multiple media, the greater the potential for synergy.

The aim of multi-platform media planning is to pull fragmented audiences back together to achieve a reach reflective of the brand’s audience.

When this has been achieved there is potential for other multi-platform media synergies to emerge.

Figure 2: Overlap consideration in multi-platform campaign development


More effective multi-platform mix of achieving reach: Covers most of the brand audience with high overlap

Less effective multi-platform mix of achieving reach: Large gaps in the brand audience and a great deal of overlap between media

Source: Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, 2012

The real advantage of adding more media to the mix is to gain extra reach, and to reach people at more times and in more different situations.

CNBC’s recent Executive Vision Series sponsored by Credit Suisse is a good example of an effective multi-platform campaign in action.

The campaign extended CNBC’s TV sponsored content across, outdoor, print and mobile.

Post campaign results demonstrate a build in ad/sponsorship awareness across multiple platforms and a combination of x4 media doubles ad awareness v TV alone (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Build in ad awareness across multiple platforms

Source: Dres Consulting 2010

Synergy Effect 2: Broaden the timing and context of consumer touch-points

Timing can be everything. Advertising has a higher impact the closer the exposure is to purchase.

Evidence from observation, diary and survey methods point to different media types peaking at different times of the day.

Media users tend to gravitate to the best available screen - mobile video is great on the move, enhanced by the iPad and other tablet devices - but will be replaced by the big screen TV at home or the computer screen in the office.

By placing your advertising in a multi-platform mix you can insert the advertising into people’s lives, enhancing receptivity around varied purchase consideration points.

CNBC’s Executive Vision Series research reveals that viewers who watched the programme on TV at home, also viewed at work online (27%), on their mobiles (17%) and during in-flight entertainment (15%).

In addition to delivering incremental reach, the varied multiple platform experience this campaign delivered reinforced the sponsor’s message and enhanced brand equity.

Synergy Effect 3: Provide enhanced repetition (rather than just adding frequency)

Close-by repetition of similar stimuli in the same media is often excess frequency.

The two ways to help turn frequency into enhanced repetition are to vary the context and to space out the exposures.

1.  Vary the context

Exposure to advertising messages across multiple media can stimulate forward encoding. This is when an ad in the first medium improves the performance of the ad in the second medium (as in Voorveld et al, 2010). 

Multi-media campaigns heighten forward encoding in two ways: 

  1. The subsequent exposures in different media platforms gain more attention from the viewer as the brain is tricked into thinking the stimuli are more novel than familiar.
  2. The varied contexts, like an advertisement and branded content within a programme, are seen as two separate, rather than repetitive, exposures and processed as such.

These both improve consumers’ memory for the activity, and as a result, a campaign’s performance.

An example of this is recent research which found that TV advertising via forward encoding enhances the effectiveness of subsequent online exposures.

Levels of long-term-memory encoding were found to be 30% to 40% higher when participants were exposed to online activity (pre-rolls, web browsing and banners) after they had been exposed to the corresponding TV campaign (Brennan, 2011).

2.  Space out your exposures

Extensive research in psychology reveals the ‘spacing effect’ (Sawyer, Noel & Janiszewski, 2009).

Longer intervals between exposures result in better learning and up to 20% improvement in memory.

Allowing time in between exposures means the stimuli are processed more deeply.

Multi-platform campaigns give advertisers more opportunities to spread out advertising and take advantage of this spacing effect. 

Synergy Effect 4:  Build a neuro-rich campaign environment

The art of the media mix is drawing on the strengths of each medium and choosing media that mesh together and provide a wide scope for stimulating consumer’s senses.

The manner and rate at which audiences process stimuli from various forms of media is a useful distinction, such as whether it is external or self-paced media.

Self-paced media like print and online allow the audience to process the content at their own speed while the pace of external media such as TV and radio is dictated by the medium.

The combination of emotionally rich broadcast media and a direct response channel, such as online, has also been found to be particularly powerful (Binet & Field, 2009).

Figure 4 demonstrates how TV can drive online action among those who viewed content of interest on international television.

Figure 4: Action taken as a result of seeing content on International TV

Source: Project Engagement INTV 2009/2010

Different media types provide opportunities to expand the possible ways consumers can process the campaign exposure.

The key is to choose media that combine together with a broad palette to reach the target audience in varied ways, so the campaign can be ‘neuro-rich’, heightening the long-term processing of the campaign in memory.

Questions you can ask when evaluating the neuro-richness of a communications campaign include:

Does it evoke an emotional reaction?

Can it involve a distinct scent?

Is it spoken or sung?

Does it include music or jingles?

Does it have a strong use of colour?

Does it involve images or animations that attract attention?

Does it involve words such as taglines?


It’s a new media world out there, and it is important that we expand our thinking to understand the new opportunities that have been created.

This paper provides the pointers required for achieving multi-platform synergy and outlines the need for a detailed evaluation of the cause and effect of multi-platform campaigns.

The following are a set of key tactics to take away:

  1. Start with achieving as much 1+ reach as possible among relevant target audiences, as only those who are reached by the campaign can be influenced by it.
  2. Match your media audience to your brand audience with as much coverage but as little overlap as possible. Use the media mix to gain reach without excess frequency.
  3. To enhance timing, draw on media combinations that increase your footprint over the media day.
  4. Choose media combinations that together offer visual, auditory and text options that are as diverse as possible. Aim to hit as many parts of the collective consumer brain as possible.

Companies wanting a copy of Planning for Synergy: Enhancing the Power of Multi-Platform Media Campaigns should contact 

Mike Jeanes, director of research, EMEA at CNBC, and Virginia Beal, senior research associate, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia



You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off Campaign's relaunch than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...


1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).