Let's Kill Off 'Traditional Media' Once And For All

Working for an agency that delivers work across all channels is a linguistic challenge when it comes to talking about media. We all seem to be hung up on describing the unnecessary: the relative age of media. Just today I was on a client call during which we were asked if “we could buy old media as well as new?” The answer is, of course, yes, but it made me think. What is old media? And how old is old? And does it matter? Much more important these days is whether you have the right media. Not for your agency or your network, but for the idea. Because Marshall McLuhan's age-old maxim, “The medium is the message,” is becoming ever more true.  

You only have to look at this Summer’s Cannes Lions Health to see how people are not just embracing media in new and exciting ways, they are creating powerful ideas that are inseparable from the media they were created in. The Health and Wellness Grand Prix went to “The Mother Book” from Bell Net Obstetrics in Japan. The 40-page volume (one for every week of gestation) was designed to tell expectant moms what was happening and, as the weeks went by, the pages got bigger to mirror the changing shape of their bodies. A beautiful and elegant idea executed in the best possible channel. Doing it on a social platform or as a film would have been easier, cheaper and much, much less intimate and human.



The United Nations Grand Prix for Good went to something that was really very, very good. CancerTweets is a sublime use of media that cannot be separated from the idea. Indeed, it could never have existed without Twitter as a channel. Leo Burnett created the campaign for Columbia’s League Against Cancer based on the reality that most deaths are caused by people ignoring the signs of cancer until it is too late. So they created seven Twitter accounts for the seven deadliest types of cancer and started following people, sending them symptoms that got progressively worse as time went on. If you noticed and responded, the cancer stopped following you with a message to never ignore the signs. If you ignored the tweets, your virtual cancer became terminal.

Another elegant idea we saw is the deceptively simple emoticon logo for Operation Smile in India. This organization helps provide life-altering surgery for children born with cleft palates. The idea of taking kids from “from cleft to smile” with a simple :{ to :) that could be put anywhere created a campaign that generated its own organic media plan as it was shared again and again to become the world’s most tweeted logo.

Michael Eisner once said, “In any new medium, a great story is the killer app,” and that is certainly true of the examples above. All of them are proof that media is so much more than a plan; it is an idea. To achieve this level of greatness, we need to abandon our old labels, together with the expectations and limitations that they bring with them. We need search for the ideas that fit seamlessly into our lives, appearing effortlessly without interruption. Because when we get it right, we will be telling stories in a way that feels natural, inclusive and, to be honest, far away from traditional advertising thinking and all of it’s old-fashioned naming conventions.

2 comments about "Let's Kill Off 'Traditional Media' Once And For All".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from, August 8, 2014 at 12:26 p.m.

    Thanks for bringing to the fore the importance of creativity when using media and you're right - old or new who cares? I've seen emails over the last fifteen years become text intense, uninspired, offer-less and sometimes clueless messages written by people who copy rather than copy writers. And then there are webinars where the idea of being creative undermines, apparently, a requirement to support a sales process that is more important than the buying cycle and telling stories that are unique and interesting. Well, maybe if Graham and others emphasize creativity and innovation, clients will have a better idea of what's missing in their strategy, tactics and budgets while improving the performance of not only their social media, but response advertising as well. :- to :+

  2. Patricia Friedlander from Word-Up!, August 8, 2014 at 1:34 p.m.

    McLuhan said, The Medium is the Massage. It's tough to be old and remember when the book came out and the deep conversations we had about the title.

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