I was asked to write about the integration of offline & digital media. Bet you are riveted now. I work in what everyone still wants to badge a media agency. However, I don’t believe I work in a media agency. I consider myself to work in a #makingclientsmoreprofitable agency. I don’t work in traditional media or digital media. I work in a business, which looks to identify the best way to target, reach, inspire and engage audiences. The obsession with boxing off every discipline and the vernacular of offline and online, ATL & BTL, brand and response…. really riles me.
The separation of media from creative is also too significant for it to be healthy.
There was a benefit to the old model where both operated alongside each other in full service shops. Then the world became fragmented & too complicated. Or did it? Media rightly became a specialist skill and then ever sub channel within digital subsequently argued for its own specialism. This has created umpteen siloes and specialist departments in agencies; that in itself is not wrong if the agency culture obsesses around joining everything together. At the end of the day what we all do is very simple. We help advertisers sell stuff by either satisfying or creating people’s needs for a product or service. To do that, we need to make brands meaningful to people’s lives and provide clear and unquestionable value to them.
Today, everyone talks a different language dependent on the part of the industry they cut their teeth in. Those who learnt their craft through adversarial national press negotiations or TV spot trading are undoubtedly the best buyers. Those who grew up with Overture & Google as their primary media owners are analytically brilliant and effortlessly switch from one technology platform to the next. Which of those skills is more important? The answer is neither. Modern media campaigns require both.
So why is it then that most media people like to specialise in one specific vertical? Do TV buyers only consume TV, do PPC analysts only click on Google links and never turn on the TV. Of course they don’t. We would all do well to remember that everything starts and ends with people & understanding why people do what they do after seeing an ad; or more importantly why they don’t given most people do absolutely nothing. To coin one of Dave Trott’s favourite adages, the audiences we target haven’t (contrary to popular opinion) read the client’s brief.
I interview every single new potential recruit for our business. The real talent shines head and shoulders above the rest. They are able to switch between two languages; analogue and digital and they can translate between the two. They care about people and why people do what they do. When asked where they want to specialise, they talk about chemists or chefs; craftsmen who take the best ingredients and mix them in to a unique, a la carte solution. Oh and it’s beautifully refreshing when they don’t turn up with their future salary expectation tattooed on their CV.
I started my career working on brands such as Procter & Gamble, Dockers & Cartier. I pulled competitive reports, I negotiated press, I planned TV. I then became fascinated with this emerging medium known as online and I never looked back. When our fresh faced few grads ask why I got the break I did, they are surprised when I tell them that it wasn’t because I got in to digital early. It’s because I was able to talk both languages and have always been most passionate about seamlessly connected communications.
Media is wallpaper unless it stands out. It’s nothing without the right message, just the place where a forgettable ad appeared or perhaps worse, best remembered as a dusty voucher copy in the agency basement. The right message and right media are also nothing without a clear purpose and a destination, which provides something of value. Improving awareness or consideration is a pointless exercise unless it changes purchase behaviour. Measuring the cost per acquisition of a campaign is equally flawed if you are only basing it on the final action a punter conducts.
In my humble opinion, what we do is actually pretty simple and ultimately defined by the people we seek to target. These people are normal people like you and I; if they notice an ad and react to it, it’s something that takes up seconds (or if we are lucky) minutes of their day, not hours. (would be nice if someone could tell certain creative agencies that when they are busy writing War & Peace outdoor copy.) ‘Target audiences’ react in simple ways, they are busy, cynical and like you and I, they react best to things that make their lives richer or easier.
For this reason, any media planner would do well to remember the following:
- 90%+ of ad messages get ignored, to stand out you need to have impact – this is where ‘media firsts’ & inspired creative work originates.
- Different communications really do different and complimentary jobs. Some grab attention, some give more detail and some facilitate a purchase with one click – removing the ones that grab attention or give more detail may well kill the final killer action.
- Not enough time is spent understanding how each of the ingredients in an ad campaign works – for me attribution of outcome to the right media channel or to message over media is the biggest marketing challenge for the next decade.
None of the points above are rocket science. They could have been written by an ad agency guy, a digital agency guy or indeed by a marketer.
That’s why at our agency we have tried to build a different type of media business. A modern, agile media business, which seeks to ensure, that brands have meaning to consumers in a world where trust is waning. Only 5% of Brits would care if a certain brand vanished tomorrow. (Source: MPG MC #meaningful brands research)
Clearly planning and buying paid media is no longer a complete answer. Like most media agencies we have invested heavily in to digital expertise. Where we differ is that we see the need for this digital expertise to extend beyond the placement in to the destination. We now create, build and maintain full web, mobile & social environments for our clients. We fundamentally believe that big ideas, which create meaning, must be executed under one roof. That’s why we have built a Creative Services team of 30 people in-house.
I’m all for hot housing expertise and if you don’t do that in the digital, you will undoubtedly fail, BUT there needs to be clear leadership that brings every cog in the wheel back to human understanding which in turn feeds connected thinking & measurement.
I’m predicting that before we hit 2015, people will stop talking about digital and revert to talking about the relationship between media, ad creative and destination experience.
Image provided courtesy of Shutterstock