Great Expectations in 2005

Welcome to 2005 everyone, and welcome to my first attempt at generating thoughts in the New Year. Over the last two years I've written on a number of topics, some advertising-related and some a little off the beaten path. Today I wanted to address a topic that is very close to home for me and I suspect that it's on all of your radars as well. It's the topic of media and creative integration. It's the topic with Great Expectations.

At every conference it's addressed in words but rarely in actions. In every agency it's touted but rarely truly practiced, and in the eyes of the client it is necessary but rarely given the appropriate length of time for it to be successfully done. For an industry that is truly reliant on the seamless blending of media and creative ideas, how have we managed to talk the talk and not quite walk the walk for so long?

There are certainly some great examples of campaigns where media and creative do work together well, some of them are within my own agency and some lie within the walls of our competitors. But I would hazard to say that probably less than 70 percent of the campaigns in the marketplace are doing a great job of it.

To do a great job, you need a couple of things; first of all you need time. You need time to plan and time to concept in conjunction with one another. Time to research and develop ideas that effectively merge the two elements into something new and unique that can actually be executed upon. You need time to locate the right technology, to execute your ideas, and you need time to test the work so there are few, if any, problems. You need time that is rarely ever given in our industry.

The second thing you need is an infrastructure that supports and fosters this type of integration. I've recently heard about a number of agencies that have a senior media person reside in the creative department, or vice versa. I've also heard of "forced" integration efforts between media and creative where the two teams are required to interact and co-develop ideas. I've even heard of exercises where the creative team is asked to work on the media plan and the media team develops the initial rounds of creative concepts. All of these are executional means of fostering a sort of co-dependence, but I suggest that for your shop to be truly successful at this form of integration, it needs to run deeper than this.

Your codependence needs to be bred into their lineage. It needs to be crucial to their way of life. You need to convey the message that one cannot live without the other, and this can be a difficult connection to make given that many other forms of media proclaim the benefits of "Unbundling" and "Best of Breed." Why do some people think that "Best of Breed" needs to refer to two different companies? You can bundle together the "Best of Breed" under one roof and be very, very successful. There are years of proof to support this.

For creative and media integration to become the norm, we all need to take a more active role in guaranteeing that this occurs. The various conferences that we attend, from iMedia and AdTech to MediaPost's Forecast, all need to do a better job of supporting the integration.

If we are talking about media executions, include the creative directors who worked on the effort. If we are showcasing creative, have the media directors who were involved explain why this execution was chosen to run on a specific placement. Demonstrate an effective campaign development process by highlighting a brainstorm in action, or even a reality-esque documentary of an award winning campaign in development that incorporates both the media and the creative elements of the process and show how they interact with one another. Take a more active role in demonstrating to the industry examples of how this can occur so that there are models to reflect and base upon.

This is my challenge to our industry for 2005. We are coming into closure on many of the basic issues that we have struggled with over the last 10 years and now the expectations have changed. The campaigns we put out are good, but we need them to be great. If spending in our space is to continue to increase, then we need to meet the challenge of these Great Expectations. We need to create more campaigns of note. Where is our "Where's the Beef"? Where is our talking Chihuahua (ok, so they may not be the greatest examples, but you know what I am talking about, right)?

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