Media X: Mess With Texas

In Texas, they love Juneteenth.

For those of you not up to speed on American history, that's the nickname of the holiday commemorating June 18-19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger's ship made anchor in Galveston, and he announced on the balcony at Ashton Villa that the Civil War was over. And that Lincoln had freed the slaves -- in 1863.

Okay, just a bit tardy. But hey, shit happens. And even though Texas was then and is now a gigantic bigot bin, let's give them their due. More than 30 states recognize Juneteenth in some way, but only in Texas is it an official state holiday. And Juneteenth is celebrated around the world as an affirmation of freedom.

I bring up this bit of 19th-century ephemera to illustrate what may be the key factor in whether media agencies live or die in our blood-soaked 21stc-entury marketplace. The communication channel through which Granger's news was delivered was fine for the times -- no news traveled fast in the 1860s -- but the content changed everything.



Isn't that the landscape we survey today?

We have a pretty good handle on the channels. We know in a digitally enabled world that integrated marketing is imperative. OK, that means media agencies usually take point in clients' integrated-marketing teams. But that's not enough to ensure their continued relevance to marketers.

Choosing the right channels is only the opening act. It's the content that will make or break your campaign. We've gone back to the future, folks. The medium is no longer the message. The message is the message.

I'm not talking about advertising, which has limited usefulness on television and elsewhere. It's only a tiny percentage of what travels over mobile and is the kiss of death in social media. I mean content, useful information or engaging storytelling, the latter often activated through branded entertainment.

So enough joking about how media agencies should hire creatives. It's not funny anymore. Besides, they've already experimented with that, and you can look the results up in the dictionary under "disingenuous."

Media agencies don't need copywriters and art directors in-house. They don't need to buy production companies. They need permanent organizational units filled with content creators, not ad guys. They need storytellers.

Because media neutrality just gets you into the disco. Content makes your campaign John Travolta. If media agencies want to protect and expand their lead positions with clients, they have to do more than plan and buy. They have to create as well.

This is more or less what Brian Terkelsen is doing at MediaVest's connectivetissue. And Paul Woolmington wherever he goes. I asked Fred Sattler, the brilliant media mind overseeing Initiative's ridiculous success with Hyundai/Kia, what he thinks of this idea. He says bringing content creation into media shops "increases our risks for failure but 70% of the creative out there today does nothing to advance communications strategy. We have to think like good creatives."

I would say hire content makers instead of think like creatives, but you get the point. If media agencies don't do this, and soon, I can sum up the probable outcome in three words: Remember the Alamo.

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