I remember the good old days, when you could be innovative in coming up with ways to spend your money. We would develop new creative units like takeovers and new buying models like cost-per-visitor instead of CPM. We would push for verified visitors. We even went so far as to invent new ways of plastering our brand on a page (kudos to those of you who recall one such effort for spotting the internet while promoting “101 Dalmatians").
Alas, those days are gone. These days the choices are finite, and the performance of online ads is maxed out as a result.
In today’s market you have maybe 10 viable places to spend money at scale. There are a few walled gardens and a few open web conglomerates where you can spend your dollars. The choices revolve around search, display, and video, either with or without audience targeting.
You do have native ads and OTT opportunities, but there are only a few players that lead each of these spaces, and even some of them have issues when it relates to scale.
You can teach someone new how to manage online media campaigns very quickly, which is why when you sit with agency teams you tend to have your dollars managed by so many people with so few years of experience. In the world of online media planning and buying, experience costs too much.
The best media people recognized this challenge years ago and moved to broader roles.
The answer to my question about where the creativity has gone? Now, creativity lies in integrating paid and non-paid or earned media. The interplay between what you buy and what you augment through social and viral means is where brands can get creative. This is where more experience can be a plus.
The innovation lies in tying together two types of media and using it to generate additional reach and frequency. These are two terms that still hold up as core tenets of marketing, both online and offline. You can be selective of an audience by using data and contextual targeting methods, and your message can further qualify the people you want to engage with.
At the core of tying together paid and non-paid is content marketing. Content can represent two sides of a coin. On one side, you have creative that you run in paid media. On the other side, you have content that you write and syndicate through any number of methods. PR, social media management, backlinking (SEO) and more are all required, yet still innovative, elements of on online media strategy.
Not all marketers truly understand this interplay. It requires you to think differently from how you may have been operating in the past. Take PR as an example. Most marketing orgs will separate PR from content marketing, but that creates a silo where the synergy between the two is not fully recognized. These are two peas in a pod and should be planned and implemented by the same team.
The other challenge is, the broader organization may not fully understand what you are trying to accomplish. The best marketers have to be capable of selling their strategy through to the broader C-Suite and demonstrating results. This requires an intense focus and the ability to not be distracted by bumps in the road along the way.
So maybe, just maybe, there is creative left in media. I think my drafting this column put me at ease with the question, but I also think I identified a topic for a future column: Where is the creativity in management, and how do you sell that to your C-Suite colleagues?
Another day, another column, I guess.