Planners, Creatives Need To Unite

The idea of unbundled media and creative may make sense for traditional advertising where the models are set, clearly defined, and flexibility is slim. All things considered, it does not make much difference if the media and creative teams are on different floors, in different buildings, or even in different cities.

With interactivity--specifically, interactive advertising--the lines between media and creative are unclear and the level of flexibility is great. All of this--plus the opportunity for optimization--means that the media and creative teams need to be in close proximity, working and thinking closely together. Proximity and working together are one thing; but thinking like one another is a sea change compared to the way the unbundled players had been organized.

Flash back to the year 2000, and the look and feel of advertising agencies was undoubtedly different. Technology hadn't quite peaked yet; consumers were still making sense out of the dot-coms vs. dot-bombs; interactive was still a relatively "new" term; and creative teams typically ruled the roost. Fast-forward to 2006, and the landscape of advertising, interactivity, and account service teams has evolved holistically and (hopefully) void of egos.

Enter the media buyers and planners. Whereas previously given a back seat to creative plans and big ads with catchy phrases and impressive bells and whistles, media planners and buyers are now sharing the playing field and have established themselves as a key component of the advertising plan with their knowledge of messages and audiences--not to mention their savvy negotiating skills.

Technology has played a role in the evolution of this new partnership, as it's boosted both the expectations of the creative team and the intelligence the media buyers must gather in order to result in a successful campaign. With the advancement of technology, it's no longer simply about creating a "cool" advertisement so much as it's about messages, communication, and the myriad of avenues to use (blogs, traditional online media, different page takeovers, etc.)

On the front end of campaigns, creatives are now joining forces with media buyers/planners; on the back end, they're working with campaign management teams to determine return on investment and successes. Whereas years ago, creatives simply changed a photograph or a background color and called it "repurposing," today's consumers are much more sophisticated. As such, creatives must work in tandem with media to determine: How can I craft my message to speak to you?

And it's up to the media team to identify the messages, the audiences and to work in tandem with the creative team to come up with a campaign. In fact, today's campaigns have become so technologically sophisticated that in many cases, the creative teams cannot even develop an execution without first seeing a media plan because they need to understand the specifications of each site. Creative execution has become dependent on what's being planned by the media departments.

In addition to technology, consumer intelligence has also spawned these new roles: Smarter consumers are pushing for smarter technology, and this new push requires the media departments to ensure that marketers are reaching their target audiences. In short: Knowing where to place an ad has become just as important as the creative genius behind it.

When you see the best examples of interactive media, it is often difficult to discern what is media and what is creative. Often, new placements or campaigns are made entirely of newly created content areas or applications, developed to enhance, associate, or create brands and messages in a meaningful context.

The role reversal between media and creative requires an understanding from clients that the message and the creative can't be separated and that the union between media and creative will in no way inhibit creativity or the "big idea." Instead, the true, unified merger of the two groups--built on the foundation of the right message, the right audience, and the right context--will result in a unique and strong campaign.

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