The New Creative Imperative
It has been said that "media is the new creative." To clarify, the idea is that in this age of hyper-audience fragmentation, the "who" you're speaking to is now as important as the "what" that's being said.
As a creative director who was once employed by a media agency (Universal McCann), I couldn't agree more.
In fact, I once asked a major agency new business head if they'd ever consider having media planning lead a new business pitch instead of account planning or the usual grand set-up to the creative "big idea." The reply I got was, "We would never do that! Why?"
As any smart connections planner will tell you, with the array of targeting tools and technologies now available to us, the "who" -- and for most brands there are several now need to be as much a driver of creative development as the "what." Whether you call it "addressability," "re-targeting," "versioning," or even "canoe," targeting technologies developed by companies like Visible World are now available in 50 million-plus television homes. And that has enormous implications on the way creative could and should be developed -- while still delivering the kind of reach and impressions that so many advertisers and agency models are addicted to.
But few have seen the light.
So what's involved creatively if you can now target your messaging to multiple configurations of "whos," like zip codes or neighborhoods -- not just by age or income?
This suggests the need to develop "scenario-based" creative -- meaning that differently shot scenarios are required to be relevant to different targets. So, when developing a campaign for a brand, the more your creatives can expand your idea (and your shot list) across different scenarios -- lifestyle, ethnicity, age, geography, and even program context -- the more likely your campaign will score at both the "what" and "who" levels of relevance. Sure, it will take your production cost up -- but the efficiency of targeted reach and frequency on the media side should actually drive media cost down Mr. Procurement Officer.
But back here in reality, most creatives just aren't thinking that way. In fact, I would suggest that the need to develop addressable messages for multiple target scenarios is the last thing on their minds. It's sadly still more about Cannes and will my hilarious commercial get made? That's the currency of creative our industry still clings to.
Just over the hill, it will be interesting to see how the new procurement and copy strategies of the power brand marketers will change the scope of creative storytelling. The craft of coming up with a great idea and compelling storyline to deliver the selling message will still be of paramount importance -- but in my view, the number of scenarios and shots will need to increase if we expect to demonstrate the value of these new technologies to our client marketers.
Which might add up to an increase in production costs at the front end, but with a massive potential savings in media waste at the other end. It just depends on your mindset.
For some creatives, this is an exciting time of new technologies and new possibilities. For those of us who are tired of all the doom and gloom surrounding the DVR-enabled consumer, there are lots to get smart and excited about. In fact, the best offense against a DVR-enabled viewer may not be an industrywide defense, but rather, more relevant, more targeted messaging that delivers both the "who" and the "what."
As for my creative colleagues, not to worry. There's still going to be plenty of shoots left. Only this time, hopefully procurement will see the value of not only letting you shoot with whom you want -- but also see the value of longer shot lists to better target the WHO you need to reach.