The remarriage of creative and media

The remarriage of creative and media

With consumer attention in short supply amid a complex media landscape, the media and the message need to align better to cut through. A creative chief and a media head talk it through…

Let’s start by sparing a thought for brands. Until recently, they’ve had to navigate the turbulent relationship between creative and media.

The two disciplines didn’t play nice for decades. They were traditionally siloed. They had different agendas. They worked to different deadlines. One side did their job, the other side did theirs. They didn’t really have much to do with each other.

The relationship felt like an “arranged marriage”.

However, decades after falling out and moving apart, the two disciplines are reconciling as creative and media strategy increasingly intermingle and jostle for relevance and priority.

What is driving this reunion? A creative chief and a media head talk it through…

Time for reconciliation

Simon Long: The big split occurred during a time when creative and media felt they would be better off alone, due largely to the rise of cable TV. The buying power of media allowed large media companies to emerge and creative agencies were often content to dream up big ideas without media telling them what to do.

Ben Cunningham: From a purely financial perspective, you can see why media and creative agencies went their separate ways, leading to the increased commoditisation of media that we see today at the larger end of the scale. If it was purely down to client benefit, they’d still be together.

Egos also played a big part. Yes, there are egos on both sides, but both creative and media people will be able to point to an occasion where they have allowed the other perspective in and actually created a campaign or pitch response that was way better than what they would have come up with on their own.

Long: Enough time has passed. The marketing world has changed through data, analytics, the rise of digital, social media and connected TV, highlighting the importance of creative and media reconciling.

Cunningham: We are in an age defined by digital footprints and exponential change. The realm of marketing and media has evolved into a dynamic landscape where brands battle for attention and consumers weald unparalleled influence.

Long: A 30-second ad doesn’t cut it any more. Now, data informs the creative and media helps the creative land in front of the right eyes, at the right time, on the right platform. Creative is still king. But media is the kingdom.

Fighting for attention

Cunningham: A great idea can only exist if it’s effective, if people pay attention to it.

The time an average person spends on ads per day is nine minutes. Competition for people’s attention has never been fiercer.

Consumer attention is in limited supply and the media landscape varies greatly in its ability to offer advertisers consumer attention. It is crucial that media and creative work together to identify the moments when attention is available so that media and message can be aligned to stand a chance of cutting through.

If media and creative are working independently, campaign effectiveness will certainly reduce. That battle for attention becomes harder to win.

Long: The media landscape is characterised by an unrelenting demand for content, constantly escalating in speed, volume and relevance. It’s everywhere and it’s accelerating. Every platform, interaction and click presents an opportunity for engagement.

The proliferation of channels, and changes in audience media consumption, is what’s essentially driving this reunion — the fundamental shift from complexity to connectivity.

Clients are increasingly seeking integrated solutions. With the emergence of new technologies and advanced marketing capabilities driven by data and analytics, partnerships in which media and creative work more closely in tandem for clients are becoming the norm.

Brands are increasingly consolidating their marketing needs with one agency or holding company, resulting in creative and media not just needing to be under the same roof again but in the same room, around the same table. It involves media planners working closely with creatives, producing new consumer insights and journeys that, when done right, deliver great ideas.

Cunningham: This requires more time and effort for those involved. With the increasing pressure for agencies to grow in this challenging marketplace, one concern is that the extra time investment across a broad group of creative and media people will make agencies less efficient, meaning some will shy away from it.

This further reinforces the viewpoint of clients who think their media agency model is unfit for their future needs — already at 24% in a recent survey. But the extra time invested more than pays back in terms of effectiveness and client/agency satisfaction.

One in 10 brands say current agency model fits future needs

Closing the loop

Long: A good idea is still at the heart of a great campaign, no matter how complex the media landscape gets. The key today is the data informing those ideas and the relevant platforms dictating how that idea gets seen and connects with consumers.

Cunningham: It’s about closing the loop. Most integrated agencies have a creative heritage, but true creativity is about real solutions, not just nice ideas or pretty pictures. With an increasingly integrated approach, we can use data to join up all the touchpoints between creativity and media.

Long: No matter how great the idea is, or how good the campaign looks, it’s all for nothing if your audience doesn’t see it. It’s like winking at someone in the dark. You know you’re doing it, but they don’t.

Today’s consumers browse, shop and interact when and how they want. In store, online, mobile, tablet — making the path to conversion long and twisted. Grabbing attention through their journey is harder.

That’s why brands need to look through the omnichannel lens. And why media and creative need to sit more closely to ensure their marketing efforts aren’t seen in silos. Consumers don’t see in channels.

Cunningham: When it comes to creative and media, Aristotle was right: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When creative and media are aligned to a single strategy informed by deep audience insight, we have a real opportunity to win the battle for attention that leads to longer-term business growth for clients.

Long: We are living in a world where message and method are so intertwined. How brands say something is totally affected by where and when it is said. Speed, value and effectiveness benefit from this reconciliation.

As the industry transforms, we need to nurture the relationship between the two disciplines. Clients want best-in-class creative; they want best-in-class media. So we need to pull together the best of both worlds. It’s a match made in marketing heaven.

Simon Long (left) is global executive creative director and Ben Cunningham is media director at IMA-Home

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