Media X: Play Rough

Folks, it is way past time that media agencies hire creatives, make their scribbling and sketching a secondary part of the agency offering, lock them in the back of the office and joke with clients during communications planning meetings that "there's five minutes left, do you want to go to lunch or look at the creative?"

Yes, this is that column.

I was going to riff on my Gen X colleague complaining about Facebook -- "I don't want to throw sheep at you" -- or write a wild-eyed, nasty screed about yesterday's obscene "Twitterview" between George Stephanopoulos and John McCain. But then I read an interview with a big-agency creative team. Doesn't matter who they are or which shop they're at, if you read enough of these things -- by Crom, I have -- they all sound the same.

I expected arch jokes and false modesty designed to showcase the duo's wonderfulness, and there was plenty o' that. But then I came to the part where they claim there's nothing creative about media, compared to the immortal art they produce.



You know, I'd have been surprised if I hadn't read that, since I've heard it so often. Maybe this was just the snark that broke the camel's back. For whatever reason, though, I lost it.

Like a creative knows how a media plan is put together or how it's activated. Creatives don't know anything about anything except typefaces, taglines and trashing their office.

There are many reasons why these walking, talking affectations have become water-carriers for brighter members of the marketing communications community. But their failure to appreciate or respect any other aspect of the business, let alone learn about it and how it relates to what they provide (despite their tiresome claims that they do), is the biggest.

Your typical creative director is like Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, sitting high in the saddle like a Latino Lee Garfinkel, serene in his fabulousness, as his troops assemble outside the Alamo.

The Napoleon of the West will win the battle in a little over an hour. But he'll lose the war. And he will be bitch-slapped by history, which will be written by the Texicans who defeat him -- the media agencies in this tortured analogy.

These are the same creatives who, 10 years after losing the unbundling war, still crankily contend that they should control strategic media planning -- at least. Good luck with that.

Mexico isn't getting the Alamo back, kids.

Media agency executives should be doing interviews where they observe that a fourth-grader could write a sandwich commercial, but it takes real talent to craft a communications plan. I mean a real plan, not a gimmick like putting your little car on top of a bigger car and paying someone to drive it around.

Or they could note that any schmuck can shoot a Web ad, but you need real creative firepower to develop a media buy that nimbly navigates a landscape that's more minefield than marketplace. And no, paying someone to sit on a bar stool and boost your beer doesn't count.

People, you won the war. Seize the spoils.

Convince your clients it's time you took control of -- at a minimum -- digital creative. Then fight to steadily add more messaging responsibilities.

And remember the Alamo.

1 comment about "Media X: Play Rough ".
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  1. Dana Todd from SRVR LLC, March 18, 2009 at 12:50 p.m.

    Hee hee, thanks for the morning giggle. The never-ending war between media and creative is always entertaining.

    To be honest, my biggest beef isn't "who's driving the strategy machine?", it's the commitment level that's missing on both sides of the equation these days.

    Once upon a time, in brand strategy, it was a commonly understood "law of advertising" that you should commit to a brand strategy for at least three years if you really wanted it to ever hit its stride in efficacy. That means that all your campaign elements essentially support a central story for three whole years, regardless of whether you get a new CMO, or some intern in the social media dept is bored, or you change agencies, or a shiny object media type distracts you. We've gotten so ADD in our approach to advertising overall, that we're really not giving anything an opportunity to succeed to its full capacity, and we're not sticking to plan. I have seen no evidence that quick-hit or one-off campaigns succeed longterm, regardless of who drove the media or the creative. And when I say "long term", dear Millennials, I mean more than a year of audience recall.

    NO ONE SEEMS TO REMEMBER HOW TO BUILD A LEGACY BRAND. I'm perpetually saddened to see that very few marketers even have a concept of what it takes to build a legacy brand. It doesn't take a great creative, or a great media plan, operating in a vacuum. It takes a great strategy and vision, working together, and committing for the long haul.

    If you don't believe me, just take a look at the Apple "I'm a Mac" campaign. Would you believe that campaign launched in 2006? That's right, and it took a full year to even start to impact sales (supported by some other market factors of course - no brand operates in a vaccuum). Now in its third full year, the campaign is still as fresh and funny as ever, and they've found ways to tell their brand attribute stories to many audiences in many countries and in many media channels. I'm sure they've had at least one conversation about "Gosh, the team is really bored doing this campaign - can't we try something else like a those Burger King guys are doing, maybe a freaky mascot or a NASCAR thing or something that appeals to the fashionistas like Dell and HP is doing..."

    Thankfully, they've resisted. It's been three years, though, and I suppose it'll change now. But the cool thing is they've allowed themselves enough runway to really make an impact. I wish more creative and media teams would do the same!

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