Aperture: Sign On and Stay a While

Media departments have historically had an odd-man-out role within advertising agencies. Once almost invisible in the popular culture's depiction of agency life (who was Darren Stevens' media planner?), communications planning has now taken its rightful place in partnership with the creative product. This makes sense, given the number of communications outlets and the control consumers exercise over their media choices.

Whether independently or as part of a larger agency holding company, communications planning has contributed to excellence in the media discipline. Creative agencies are taking a fresh look at media agencies, and may consider bringing us back into the "fold." But the real opportunity is for creatives and communication planners to partner in developing the best possible messaging, content, and channel connection to reach consumers with the right message at the right time. Delivering custom content via personalized media platforms is key to effective, targeted communication.

To navigate the complicated world of total communications management and best serve clients, media agencies have worked hard to attract and retain the best available talent. Paid far less than their creative brethren, many young planners and buyers have voted with their feet, job-hopping for raises or, more disturbingly, abandoning the industry for more lucrative pursuits.

Not only is it possible to hire excellent media professionals and keep them passionate about their craft. It is the heart and soul of the business model at TargetCast TCM, where we work. The key is to foster a culture that encourages connection, creativity, and above all curiosity. Giving planners the right tools, data, support, and encouragement to go above and beyond the norm has resulted in a lively planning environment we think can be replicated elsewhere. Here are some ideas:

>> Maintain energy and excitement levels. A creative culture doesn't just happen. It's the sum total of experiences and interactions. It is as much about the way we work with our clients as it is about the way we interact within our environment. Establishing regular opportunities for staff communication and management interaction is key. Monthly staff meetings, idea sessions, interdisciplinary brainstorming, and a belief that a great idea can come from anyone, anywhere, keep our energy and excitement levels high.

>> Stay aligned with your mission. It is our goal to never lose the key rationale for creating our agency. For example, our mission statement says, "We offer strong independent brands the level and quality of attention they deserve, while establishing an agency environment in which professionals will have the time, tools, and support necessary to exercise the full measure of their creativity."

To focus on creativity, we use TargetTrak, our proprietary consumer insights tool, to conduct both qualitative and quantitative analyses. We identify several important points, including the notion that everyone must feel invested in a company's well-being, and that mere lip service to ideals is no service at all.

While there are now calls for media agencies to rejoin creative agencies, it is our independence and commitment to our craft that has driven this critical element in this time of momentous change.

>> Create business results. We are fortunate to be part of an independent agency that encourages teams to uncover insights and take the time to think as well as do. We work collaboratively with all agency partners to drive creative media ideas in unexpected ways. We run our business in a hands-on fashion, both internally and with clients, creative agency partners, and communications planning agencies. We enjoy being part of a diverse team and contributing to the overall success of the client.

The future looks bright. We encourage all clients, media professionals, and creative partners to keep pressing for full engagement, to open all doors, and to break down any remaining barriers to excellence. Our ability to do great work is limited only by our willingness to step outside of our own areas and allow others in. By opening each aperture -- creative, media, promotions, public relations, and more -- we will uncover and nurture the insights that will drive advertising in the 21st century.

Steve Farella, president-CEO, and Audrey Siegel, executive vice president and director of client services, are cofounders of TargetCast TCM. (

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