Media isn’t the new creative.

The current logo for Swiss Chalet

Image via Wikipedia

I see that Astral has just completed a campaign targeting Media Planners. It’s summed up nicely by one of their headlines,

“Media is the new creative.”

I like the people at Astral. They’re one of the few big players who are actively trying to connect with agencies. They’ve done nice work on their re-brand (executed by Juniper Park) and organized a really good OOH creative contest last year. They’re genuinely trying to make the work better and for that, they deserve applause and encouragement.

I just kinda disagree with them.

The media space is changing just as fast (if not faster) than the creative space and I fully support that good ideas can (and should) come from anywhere. Some of the best creative minds work in media and I thoroughly enjoy creating successful initiatives with them. For some reason, I prefer to work with media groups who are in the same building. There just seems to be this constant elephant in the room when your revenue is going to a big international holding company and the revenue from the people you’re collaborating with is going to a different big international holding company, even though none of you really care. All in all, people are professional about it but it’s still not natural. Would Coke collaborate withPepsi? Probably not.

Anyhow, media should and can be creative but they’re far from being the new creative. Here’s why:

1. Workin’ on the Assembly Line

The Big Client-Big Agency assembly line is an automated machine that has distinct roles that need to be filled for maximum efficiency. While the assembly line can produce some really wonderful work, you kinda know what’s going to slide off the conveyor belt at the end of it all. Changing responsibilities is tough because there are so many moving parts in the process – including clients – that depend on you doing the stuff you’ve always done. It’s not a media issue, it’s a systemic issue. Until all the parties on the assembly line agree to explore different routes together, isolating one is unfair.

2. Compensation

While I have awkwardly presented my fair share of blocking charts, I’m not that knowledgable about media negotiations. That being said, I think it’s much easier for clients to pay a media agency a percentage of spend because they get accurate cost projections at the beginning of the process. Print, out of home, TV, radio.. they all have agreed to and expected costs associated with them. Clients (generally) know how much each should be and can provide appropriate feedback because of it. Truly breakthrough ideas don’t come with these convenient little price tags, though. You want to open a branded art gallery? Well, how much does that cost and what should the media agency bill for their time recommending it? It’s going to take some time. For now, a lot of media shops are paid to think a certain way so they do. Would’t you? The faster we truly value thinking instead of negotiating with pre-determined calculations, the faster things will change.

3. Redefining Creative

One of the best ideas I’ve seen in a while was the launch of the 24 hour rotisserie channel for Swiss Chalet. But here’s the thing: You didn’t need to be an Art Director / Writer team to come up with it (even though it may have been). It could have been a strategic planner. Or a media planner. Or an Account Coordinator. Hell, you freelance out the execution and you can generate that idea from reception (in between levels of Angry Birds). When the assembly line redefines itself, business changing ideas will come from all directions. It won’t just be media. And it won’t just be creative.

4. Fear and Politeness

When creatives talk directly to broadcasters and other media outlets, their sales teams get a bit nervous. They don’t like talking about an account without looping in the media agency out of fear that they’ll piss them off. There are only so many media shops in this country and the BellGlobeMedia’s of the world can’t afford to upset any of them. Well, once the media agency is involved, your idea goes back onto the assembly line and before you can say “brilliant”, you’re left holding a 30 second TV spot and a couple of double page spreads. I get frustrated by this but can you imagine what would happen if a media agency contacted a production company directly? Yikes. I’d lose my shit. You can’t march forward without stepping on some toes. Sadly, we don’t. We play nice. We keep everyone in the loop. And the idea takes a back seat to our nice Canadian spirit.

Until we resolve these bigger issues, I fear media teams will be forced to define their creativity with transparencies in magazines and super boards on the Gardiner expressway. Canadian media professionals are better than that and can deliver better than that. We just have to let them.

3 Comments

  1. Christine Pellerin

    In all fairness, and god knows I’m biased, I think the intened message is that media can be something to get excited about too. That media and creative should go hand in hand and carry equal importance because failure on either end results in a campaign tanking. And from the perspective of working relationships, the goal is not to cut out the media agency, rather, it is to promote the collaboration of media agency, creative agency and media provider…

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  3. Ron

    Thanks, FBFC. Appreciate it.

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