Column: The Department - Unlearning Media for Dummies

by Jul 29, 2005, 3:12 PM
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By Lisa Seward

Recently I had the opportunity to address a group of fallon account executives on how they can better support their media counterparts' efforts. To be honest, I'm sorry I didn't initiate the conversation; after all, much can be gained by changing how those in other disciplines work with media, now that our role has fundamentally changed from budget conservator to idea contributor.

But the truth is that I was asked by a particularly forward-thinking account director what his staff should learn, and unlearn, and relearn in the world of media.

Having given my little talk, I came to realize that the points I shared might be applicable not only to account people at full-service agencies, but also to all types of colleagues with whom media people interact, from creative-shop staffers to vendors to clients. So, as a service to you, dear reader, I hereby share these brand-spankin'-new rules of the road for everyone you come into contact with. Feel free to communicate these to the colleagues of your choice however you see fit, from dropping the occasional veiled hint to clipping this column and posting it in your bathroom stalls. (Hey, whatever works.)

Top Ten Ways To Get The Most Out Of Today's Media Thinkers:
>> 10. Give good brief. Please don't expect us to deliver one more media plan against an awareness objective. Awareness of what, exactly? Why? To what end?
>> 9. When in doubt, include us. Conduct yourself as though media were a core discipline required to think through any communication or advertising challenge. Because, frankly, it is.
>> 8. Eliminate the phrase "media idea" from your vocabulary. In this case, using media as an adjective relegates our ideas to secondary status behind those golden children, creative ideas.
>> 7. Ask our opinion. Today's media people have a finger on the pulse of ever-changing consumer habits. And in this day and age, what you don't know could hurt you  so ask us what we think of that campaign idea or research approach.
>> 6. Take a deep breath and say, "The media people need more time." Tell me, please, what cosmic rule ordains that only creatives get the privilege to miss deadlines because "they just haven't cracked it yet?" Now that media people are conjuring up ideas, too, how about giving us the same freedom once in a while?
>> 5. Sell media concepts as enthusiastically as creative ones. Whether it's to your boss or your client, stand behind media work as you do with creative work. Sell it, protect it  hell, even brag about it.
>> 4. Ask us, "How does this media thinking help accomplish the business goal?" Hold us accountable to deliver business results. Media must answer to the same standards as other disciplines.
>> 3. Participate in rep meetings once in a while  and not just for the free lunch. The best media vehicles today have astonishingly tight relationships with their audiences, and they'll tap them in appropriate ways to marketers' advantage. Sit in a vendor work session and see if it doesn't open your mind to new definitions of media, and even of advertising.
>> 2. Give us a broad palette on which to work. Don't rein us in to the more traditional outlets, even if that's what you are most comfortable with. Allow us the freedom to conceive broad-ranging media programs customized to the job at hand.
>> 1. Let us talk to the creative staff. Hell, go crazy and let us work alongside 'em. True working partnerships between media and creatives  relationships where both parties respect each other and speak honestly and passionately from their own sphere of expertise  can make good ideas great, and great ideas brilliant. And isn't that why we all got into this crazy business in the first place? (Hint: If you're really smart, you won't just allow this; you'll mandate it.)

Lisa Seward is the media director at Fallon, Minneapolis. (lisa.seward@fallon.com)

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