6 Reasons Why Media Should Come Before Creative …

Appeared in Ad Age April 3, 2012

Not that long ago media used to be the last ten minutes of the meeting.  The big TV idea, the provocative headline or the right choice of talent was the key to unlocking brand fame in a world where advertising was first and foremost about interrupting an audience.  But for many marketers that playbook is being tossed aside.  The conventional order of: planning-creative-production-distribution is being flipped.  Answering where and how we should communicate is preceding what we should say.  Here’s why:

1.       We’ve Moved From a World of Mad Men to Math Men (and Women) 

Advertising has become a numbers game.  The more pressing questions from the C-Suite today are: How much should we ideally spend?  Which brands should be supported?  What is the return on investment?  And which channels will best pay out?   Before developing the right messaging, the right business case for advertising needs to be established first.  One of the biggest factors for marketing failure is not matching the right budget to the goals or getting the right plan.  Our business planning team helped one of our clients sell the case for a three-fold increase in ad budget to their Board.  Their business is thriving as a result of having the right level of investment.

2.       The Big Television Idea in Advertising Has Lost Ground to Small, Smartly Placed, Relevant Ideas

In the agency world, we live to sell clients the big idea.  A Nike Just Do It or a Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.  David Ogilvy wrote back in 1983 “I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea,” something I think is still very much the case today.  Larry Light introduced Brand Journalism, a breakthrough strategy for McDonald’s that debunked the idea of a universal message in place of using many stories to speak to different audiences. The Big Idea just isn’t a scalable proposition in advertising.   To me, relevance is one of the most important currencies in communications.  Smart tactical use of different media at relevant times, locations and environments with custom messages is what creates engagement.

Axe has done this brilliantly over the years using an array of channels to talk to young men.  This includes branded television series of men trying to win over women, mating game tool kits, spritzes from attractive female models wandering the aisles of retail stores and sponsoring nightclubs.

3.       Right Media, Right Message

While working on a new business pitch, I worked with Rob Feakins the Chief Creative Officer at Publicis New York.  He charged several teams in his creative department to come up with pitch ideas. Before the teams presented their ideas to him, he called me and asked if I could talk him through the media plan. I was intrigued; rarely have I found a creative to express much interest in media.  He said the relative importance of different media would help him judge the potential campaign concepts better. Knowing whether out-of-home or print or television advertising was going to be the principal channel would help him decide which idea to back.

4.       Content is Still Very Much King, But Which Kind of Content?

In a broadcast world the 30 second ad ruled.  But in a multi-platform digital landscape that content can and needs to take many forms.  A media plan is as likely to consist of long form video series, custom sponsored programing, short form video pre-rolls, interactive creative, mobile apps and curated branded content, alongside the more traditional ad units.  Each media forms bring a different mix of engagement, shareability and branding.  Defaulting to a creative brief that starts with the more predictable advertising units at the outset will likely stymie innovation.  This is an issue when research suggests that more and more brand decisions are being influenced by sources beyond advertising.

My advice: develop the media plan first, then determine what mix of creative assets that need to be developed.

5.       Adaptive Marketing

I wrote about this idea a couple months back.  Adaptive Marketing is the ability to adapt and personalize campaigns real time, by responding to data collected on the audience via their web behavior or social graph.

A favorite example of this is Intel’s Museum of Me that takes content collected from you Facebook Timeline to create a personalized animated film.

6.       Media is more than a venue for your ads

The Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, The Grammys, television premieres, a Final of American Idol have become media events.  Social media and tablets have turned them into live interactive marketing bonanzas.  Customizing ads and marketing programs to leverage these events is becoming a powerful strategy.  Poise used the Academy Awards to promote its pads through a Whoopi Goldberg spot and online program.  It created a viral storm and sales hit record levels.

Media companies are leading the way when it comes to navigating the paid, owned and earned world.  Media ‘brands’ such as ESPN, AOL, MTV, The X-Factor, YouTube, Jimmy Kimmel, Project Runway plus the established Broadcast Networks and print/web titles are able to deliver consistently large scale advertising audiences, give brands access to content and drive the conversation in social media.  To leverage these opportunities fully, media partners need to be a brought in much earlier in the marketing planning process.

To be clear, this is not a media versus creative discussion.  All stakeholders need to be part of a media discussion … the brand, account management, account planning, creative, digital and the media teams.  Maybe it is now time for the Creative to be the last 10 minutes in the meeting!


Axe vs. Old Spice: Whose Media Plan Came Up Smelling Best?

Unilever’s Axe and Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice have played more than their fair share of one-on-one ball in recent times. Axe has delivered some irreverent and sometimes controversial campaigns over the years, while Old Spice has rejuvenated the brand to make it more relevant to a younger user. Here, we check out their form and stats across both media plans.