Media & Creative Are Having A Turf War & It’s Media Agencies That Are Coming Out On Top

Media & Creative Are Having A Turf War & It’s Media Agencies That Are Coming Out On Top

In this guest post, Frontier Media’s strategy director Andrew Hardeman (main photo) says there’s an emerging turf war between media agencies and creatives and that when it comes to advertising – media agencies are catching more eyes than creatives…

In the post-optimisation era, 85 per cent of marketing execs believe they need to execute big creative ideas to drive long-term future success. More-often-than-not, this task is given to creative agencies.

And why wouldn’t it? A variety of research often states 70-90 per cent of the return on investment (ROI) from advertising is driven by creativity. Maximising creativity has constantly been shown to be the most influential way to deliver effective outcomes. But we live in an attention economy.  And, it is becoming harder to connect with consumers, innovation is needed in both creativity and media placement.

In WARC’s Effective 100 released last year, four key themes were found to drive effective and attention-grabbing work. One was creative-led – “creativity through emotional appeal”. The other three, channel-led. This included the use of influencers, stunts to capture attention, and a broad theme of unconventional media placement to connect to consumers in unexpected ways.

Now, this is not an invitation for brands to focus on small-scale stunts with the aim of “going viral”.

The 2020 Effie Report showed Effie winners were more likely to use traditional channels as their main touch-points such as – TV, social, out of home and radio.

This should be considered an invitation for brands to really evaluate how to use channels to capture consumer attention.

With increasing media fragmentation, knowing how media channels can be used is a requirement – not a luxury – to make any idea even slightly actionable. Understanding the tactical logistics of how to bring an idea to life through media is becoming increasingly more important in determining the success or failure of an idea itself.

“The most effective ads, all over the world, don’t look like ads” was the main theme from WARC’s report.

In its simplest form, this reinforces the importance of delivering messages in a way that is integrated, engaging, native and un-advertising like. Enter media-led creative campaigns.

Some brands are leading more with media, anchoring their delivery heavily in the channel, rather than the message.

Momentum Energy this year used media to make people happy, rather than deliver a singular primary creative message. Bus backs were used to lighten the mood of peak hour traffic, and even a special build sequin-clad “Glam Tram” and bubbling lava lamp tram shelter were created to help commuters pass the time.

Brands are prioritising where to deliver a message, especially in a post-cookie world. Contextual targeting and relevance are having a renaissance in media planning – even across broadcast channels – as it continually shows higher consumer engagement.

Rexona launched their new brand platform – pressure moments – through a fully integrated sponsorship of the BBL by creating “pitvertising”. The sponsorship was supported by traditional spots, but it was the actual contextual relevance of the sponsorship that drove global coverage and over 55 million earned impressions.

Thinkerbell’s Adam Ferrier correctly asserts action changes attitudes, faster than attitudes changes action. Given this, media is better placed than traditional messaging campaigns to create this through partnerships, integration and collaboration.

BWS in partnership with Pedestrian TV created the world’s biggest beer run to show the lengths they will go to for great beer. The outcome was the creation of the The Rarest Six Pack on Earth which was sold through stores and drove higher foot traffic.

What does this mean going forward?

In reality, a campaign theme or idea will always be needed to ensure consistency in brand experience and message. But, increasingly this needs to come to life with more tactical expertise in media. So, both the message and medium must work together to drive the best outcome.

But, for this to occur a culture of creativity is needed across all marketing functions. Unfortunately, this still appears to firmly sit squarely with creative agencies alone. Brands should start to embrace creativity in media planning and be comfortable with the idea that a campaignable creative idea can come from a media agency that is media or channel led.




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    1. I joined an advertising agency in 1983 after 3 years in market research. (Agencies had media and creative departments in-house, working together). Since, there has been enormous change in the media landscape, but two facts anyone who claims to be an “ad person” should know:
      1) The basics of communications have not changed.
      2) Media + Message (creative) = Advertising.
      Media and creative are a team, not competitors. A “sum of the parts”.

Andrew Hardeman Frontier Media

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