TV Sponsorships: Producing Enough Creative?

I saw one of the new AOL spots again in the World Series. The strategy is brilliant. Talk to your customers, find out what's wrong, and fix it. Next, tell them through a creatively effective campaign using humor that you have fixed the problem, poking fun at your previous problems in the mean time.

I pointed this out to my wife and partner and she said: "excessive frequency due to sponsorship." She is right of course, and this is all too often the case. Sponsorships seem like a great idea from a media impact standpoint. You can often provide high reach or at least media with high composition of your target audience and achieve frequency within the sponsorship over multiple airings.

The only problem in this strategy is that seldom do media and creative collaborate on this and attempt to control the frequency or produce enough creative to justify it. This is increasingly a casualty of unbundling and bottom line pressures.

The media and creative are often doing great work, but not talking to each other. The result: Not enough spots are produced for the short-term frequency of airing. This happens over season-long sponsorships too.



For example, the larger pool of "Want to get away?" spots from Southwest Airlines are brilliant spots. But if I see a couple of those again I am going to... Now I do not know if the media and creative are separate for the Southwest business, but if they are really "working together" under the same roof, then there is really no excuse for this.

We've known about frequency and wear-out since the work that Levy did for P&G in the late 60s. There have been many studies since made by individual companies. So why is this still a problem?

It makes me wonder if unbundling has gone too far. In the previous model, at least the media and creative folks were required to meet before the new business meeting and usually in the pitch. This at least ensured them that they were introduced and heard what the other promised and the client response.

It is common in our industry to make fun of the older full-service agencies in that they never met outside of these meetings. But the reality is that this was, and is, true far too often, which has been a factor in the rise of the media service agencies.

Let us hope that the big media service agencies don't repeat the errors of the past and build in communications structures for the partner agencies, including creative. After all, the media agencies are expected to be the glue in the long-term strategic relationship. As such, they will be held to a higher standard

It is time for the priorities of reach and frequency to be balanced on a vehicle level, especially when purchasing sponsorships. Talk to your creative partners. Make sure that your great idea and their great ideas are working together.

David L. Smith is CEO of Mediasmith, a San Francisco-based media agency. He contributes to MediaPost "as often as he can."

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