During a recent discussion of upcoming client projects, Creatonomy’s president1 asked me about my recent increased use of the term “transmedia.” Specifically, she wanted to know what the difference is between transmedia communication and traditional integrated marketing as employed by Creatonomy and countless other agencies and marketing departments.
That seemingly simple question started an ongoing discussion, generously peppered with deep thinking. We haven’t yet reached any definitive conclusions, but already have uncovered some interesting relationships.
Up until about six months ago, I had used the term “cross-media” as an adjective meaning “utilizing two or more media channels.” In all respects, it was a very functional definition. And using that definition, it would be accurate to say that cross-media has existed ever since there has been more than one media channel available to marketers and communicators.
Then last fall (without any real conscious thought on my part), I began substituting “transmedia” for “cross-media” when talking with coworkers, professional colleagues and others. In my mind, I was defining the two terms identically. I admit it — I probably changed my language in large part to capture the growing buzz associated with the word “transmedia.” But in my mind, I was still talking about the exact same thing, just with a shiny new label slapped on it.
The Comparison Begins
Stepping back to a wider vantage point, we see the ongoing push-and-tug (in gaming and entertainment, among other industries) to define the term “transmedia” as well as a host of other related terms.2 But here’s the news flash … we’ve seen this all before.3
Beginning in the early 1990s, practitioners struggled and competed to define the term “integrated marketing.“4 Two decades later, the term is still around and in fact integrated marketing is almost universally accepted as the norm in marketing today. Different nuances still exist leading to multiple definitions of the term, but virtually all of the definitions share a common philosophical core.
Here’s where it gets really interesting …
The common kernel across most definitions of “integrated marketing” is the concept of an overarching strategy that governs the planning and execution of interactive, cross-functional communications. For example, a 2004 white paper on integrated marketing 5 examined various definitions and concluded that integrated marketing should:
- Be more strategic than executional
- Be about more than just advertising and sales promotion messages
- Include two-way communication (interactivity)
- Be results driven
Starting to see some parallels with transmedia communications?
I propose that transmedia communications and integrated marketing are more closely related than you may think at first glance. And ultimately after examining all the intriguing parallels and evidence (as well as hopefully starting a dialogue in both the marketing and transmedia communities), I want us to consider whether transmedia communications and integrated marketing are in fact different facets of the same thing.
There’s much more to this claim than can be addressed in a single article. Upcoming articles in this series will examine such things as:
- The similar histories of transmedia communications and integrated communications (including the times before a label was attached to either).
- The ways that transmedia communications professionals and integrated communications professionals plan and execute their respective projects.
- How transmedia communications and integrated communications each react when a new media channel or tactic is introduced.
In the meantime, what do you think of this claim? Outrageous? Thought provoking? A waste of pixels? Please weigh in and share your thoughts.
- Creatonomy is the marketing agency where I’ve worked for the last four years. President and owner Priya Barnes founded the company in 2000. [↩]
- He who defines it controls it? Or at least appears to be the expert on it? [↩]
- “This has all happened before, and will all happen again.” — Sorry. Couldn’t resist. [↩]
- Global professional services firm Accenture was among the first large organizations to push integrated marketing and CMO James E. Murphy was one of integrated marketing’s strongest early proponents. I worked in Accenture’s marketing organization from 1991 through 2006 and had a front row seat as both definitions and practical implementations of “integrated marketing” emerged. [↩]
- Duncan and Mulhern, 2004 [↩]