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During last week's Emmy Awards, host Neil Patrick Harris opened the show with a musical plea for viewers to "put down the remote" and not miss the live action by recording the show or "jumping online."

While TV viewers do multitask, tape and watch online, shows still draw large audiences and become the talk of the water cooler the next day. The 2009 Emmys attracted its largest audience since 2003, with more than 17 per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 54 tuning in.

Clearly, traditional media aren't dead. But increasingly, the bold new ideas are coming from marketers who are working with their ad agencies and media partners to combine new technologies with traditional media approaches.

With the media landscape changing, and people shifting how they spend their time, it's often challenging to assess how to balance marketing spending among traditional media like television, radio, outdoor and print advertising against newer technologies, like the Web, mobile, smart phone and social networking applications.

Approaching marketing challenges by asking the question, "How would I do this if traditional media tools did not exist?" helps to move beyond traditional thinking to communicate your brand story in new ways. This doesn't mean you ignore traditional media. Rather, it means that you push for new frontiers that disrupt the conventional approaches, showcase your brand in fresh ways, and effectively separate you from your competitors.

While it's tempting to believe that just because something is new it must be better, without a smart idea that makes sense for your brand, dollars spent on innovative media approaches will be dollars wasted.

Here are some key factors to consider to get it right:

Ensure relevance

While people are increasingly adopting Twitter, this doesn't mean that your brand's consumers will sign up in droves to hear from you. It needs to be relevant for them to care enough to follow your brand's tweets. A good example is the Albion Café in Britain. Bakertweet.com created a device for the bakery allowing them to tweet when goodies were coming out of the oven. This helped extend the relationship between the bakery and their customers because people were excited about getting the freshest baked goods first.

Create utility

While the iPhone is still building distribution in Canada, globally there are 30 million users who've collectively downloaded one billion apps. The best smart phone apps are useful or entertaining. The "Dunkin' Donuts Dunkin' Run" iPhone app allows you to collect your friends' or coworkers' doughnut orders as you head out for a "doughnut run" and Benjamin Moore's "Ben Color Capture" iPhone app allows you to snap a picture of a colour you'd like to match, finds the appropriate Benjamin Moore paint colour and uses GPS to suggest the nearest Benjamin Moore store.

Use technology to engage

Nike teamed up with Lance Armstrong's Live Strong campaign during the Tour de France to engage fans in a direct and novel way. Typically during the Tour, fans write support messages in chalk along the route. Nike created a computerized "Chalkbot" that allowed fans to suggest messages via text or website which were sent to the Chalkbot computer and then relayed to a "printer" which chalked the message onto the Tour de France route ahead of the bikers. The Chalkbot then sent fans a photo of their message and a link that used Google Maps to help fans track when the Tour de France team was passing their chalked greeting. This year over 100,000 messages were created that allowed fans to engage with the brand and feel part of the event.

Use technology to increase traditional media's impact

Lexus and its agency Dentsu recently took outdoor advertising to a new interactive level by using real-time weather data to tailor the advertising message that runs on digital outdoor screens in order to highlight the convertible aspect of their cars. The outdoor screens display the weather feed at the bottom and change the picture of Lexus IS 250 C (top up or down) to match the current weather conditions.

Extend your brand idea

Okanagan Spring Brewery knew it had a provocative summer campaign focused on the grassroots idea of sponsoring everyday events like "Going fishing at Jeff's cabin" or "Mike's ping-pong tournament." And, in order to further engage beer consumers Okanagan Spring created "Sponsor Me Spring" - a microsite that encouraged people to send in videos requesting sponsorship for their events. The microsite allowed visitors to vote on who was deserving of sponsorship support. By inviting audience participation and directly interacting with their target consumer, Okanagan Spring not only posted significant sales and market share gains, they also created strong consumer engagement and brand loyalty.

Make sure you measure

Sales are still the ultimate measure of a marketer's success. But the use of new media approaches requires some creative thinking to ensure understanding of what's working and what isn't. Quantitative audience numbers don't reflect the level of engagement that a good idea can create for your brand. Including a measurement tool that assesses the qualitative value of the connection that your message is making is increasingly important.

Andrea Southcott is president of ad agency TBWA\Vancouver

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