MSFW: Don't waste your dollars on paid media

MSFW: Don't waste your dollars on paid media

Earned media offers marketers better value for money than paid because traditional media has lost the trust of its audience who are leaving “in droves”, Melbourne Spring Fashion Week attendees heard. 

This is just one of the arguments trotted out in favour of earned media at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week's (MSFW) Industry day earlier this week.

MSFW challenged two industry teams to debate the contentious statement: ‘don’t waste your dollars on paid media, earned media is more valuable’. See the arguments for and against the statement and find out which team won below.

The Earned media team:

  • Phoebe Montague, Lady Melbourne blogger and the team’s captain
  • Janice Breen Burns,
  • Anton Staindl, Haystac

The paid media crew:

  • Sarah Stringer, Carat and the team’s captain
  •  Lisa Messenger, Renegade Collective
  • Rene L’Estrange-Nickson, Broadsheet

The argument for earned media:

Earned media was defined as “publicity gained through editorial influence” by journalist and blogger Phoebe Montague, who argued it delivers value for money, advocacy and embraces subtlety.

As an example of earned media Montague referenced a tweet from a Grazia editor who was displeased to find she had to watch a Christian Dior show through the hat teen fashion-blogger, Tavi Gevinson.

The picture (below) was re-tweeted more than 10.3 million times and was picked up by traditional media. “The cost of this to Stephen Jones and Dior was nothing,” Montague said.

“Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions. Its influence is greatest when consumers buy your product for the first time or when products are relatively expensive.”

Voxfrock’s editor Janice Breen Burns argued that earned media is more valuable then paid because audiences are “abandoning traditional paid media streams because they don’t trust them anymore”.

Just ten years ago Breen Burns said there was a “thick red line drawn between advertisers and journalists”.

“Advertisers didn’t mind because they were buying access to a trusting audience and they didn’t need the input.

“Then the line started to blur. Buy our ad space and you can design the news around it.”

With the integrity, fairness, dispassionate and even handed reports that were the bedrock of traditional paid media “now iffy at best”, Breen Burns said readers are leaving paid media in droves.

“We are heading instead to the earned media landscape for content we trust, content that is personal, independent, informs us honestly, speaks to us directly and with integrity.”

Haystac’s managing director Anton Staindl used the Spanx brand’s “hate” for paid advertising to support his team’s argument. “They seed their product with the people they want to be wearing it, they actually take the approach of not even paying for ambassadors,” he said.

“That is the power of word of mouth, this is now a multi-million dollar brand without one cent being paid on advertising.”

For Paid Media:

Paid media offers better ROI than earned media as it provides more longevity in market than WOM, and can do the job of both forms, the pro-paid media group stated.

“Now what our friends in earned media are not going to discuss are the number of PR campaigns that are actually leveraged off bought media spend,” Carat’s Melbourne strategy director, Sarah Stringer, said.

“You can get two in one for bought media or you can try and force someone to go on a free lunch to get a bit of editorial space.”

If someone has been paid to recommend something “really, how genuine can that actually be” she said adding: “Forgive me if I’m wrong, I’m pretty sure PR agencies do get paid.”

Advertising can create a cultural moment that people refer to long after the ad has stopped running.

Stringer pointed to the famous ‘Hello Boys’ Wonderbra billboard ad as an example.

“A recommendation from your mate is going to give you that longevity in market. Where as something like this ‘do you remember that campaign where people crashed because Eva had boobs out?’ That is a moment in time.

“In fact, it was such a moment in time that Bonds has actually used the exact same strategy in the UK to launch.”


Broadsheet’s Rene L’Estrange-Nickson argued that if it wasn’t for paid media earned would not be possible.

“If earned media was ultimately successful and every fashion brand put all of their budget into earned media than every publication would be out of business.

“If these go out of business you are going to have no where left to find audiences to convert to become your customers and you have no where left to earn media.”


The Verdict:

Despite the room being divided in the start the paid team appeared to have the most convincing argument, winning over a larger share of the room.

Do you agree with the MSFW audience? Or do you believe earned media presents better ROI than paid? Let us know by leaving a comment in the form below.

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