Reasons to be Cheerful: Rebalancing of Creative and Media Skills

By Brian Jacobs – The Cog

Heaven knows there’s plenty to be miserable about right now. Just as well The Cog Blog never gets into the really serious stuff, in favor of fussing around parochial ad business issues. But here we are, with revenues down, adspend dropping, job losses, businesses collapsing and so on.

Enough of The Smiths; let’s instead focus on Ian Dury and try to cheer ourselves up, if only a little.

I’ve always found extremes uncomfortable. Back in the day, when everything in advertising agencies bent to the latest whims of the creatives, us media guys chuntered on.

Didn’t these people care if it didn’t work? Had they never read Ogilvy? How the hell was I supposed to buy two-minute commercials on that budget?

And yet — halcyon days. Creativity ruled the roost, a greater proportion of ads than today were memorable, client production budgets were extravagant.

My friend Pam Vick at Caspia Consultancy was this week recalling her days as a Leo Burnett suit on the Cadbury business and receiving a call from the Milk Tray “Waterfall” shoot. “Pam – we’re going to need two more speedboats …”

How the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. The calls now are for more likes, more clicks, better algorithms, more impressions. The media guys are omnipotent. (By the way, when did an expertise in online media qualify you as a “marketing expert?” Did I miss the accelerated learning program?)

Extremes are bad; in just the same way that creative people largely ignored most media stuff, now far too many media people couldn’t care less about the creative work.

But there are signs of hope.

The penny may not have reached the ground yet, but it is dropping. Survey after survey shows that people don’t like or trust advertising — and specifically online advertising.

This is becoming recognized as an issue. Too much repetition, too much spooky targeting, too interruptive, too omnipresent.

And it doesn’t work.

Ad agencies are talking, the better-informed media agencies are concerned, the criticism of the large platforms grows louder. (How far off that promise to encourage conversations between consumers and brands seems. And how irrelevant).

Clients are becoming aware and engaging in the issue.

Out of concern will come action — a rebalancing of creative and media skills. Better ads placed in the most appropriate channels and measured extensively.

No longer will the cry “Facebook has gazillions of people, everyone uses it, we must be on it and they tell me all I need is two seconds” be heard throughout the land. The number of advertisers believing this rubbish will decline.

Media people will work better. Less blind reliance on machines and formulas, more using machines and formulas as tools to create impactful campaigns.

Less obsession with audit pools, CPM and naïve assessments.

More paying attention to attention, on how to engage, entertain and delight the audience.

More of an appreciation of context (thank you Andrew Tenzer and Reach); less of a mistaken belief that all impressions are equal.

A greater acceptance that “negotiation” means “how can I get what I have worked out is what the client needs for less;” not “how does this benefit me?”

More concentration on planning, on understanding that a plan combines numbers and creativity.

It’s time to celebrate great work — and great work emerges from a collaboration across many parties.

Including TV. Including social media. Including influencers. Including DM. Including algorithms. Including mavericks in all disciplines.

Including Hammersmith Palais and the Bolshoi Ballet. And if you get that reference … I salute you!

(Editor’s note: We realize the folks in the photo at the top are not wearing masks or social distancing. But in keeping with the spirit of this column, we can dream of a return to “normalcy,” can’t we?)

About Author

Brian Jacobs spent more than 35 years in advertising, media, and research agencies, including spells at Leo Burnett (UK, EMEA, International media director), Carat International (managing director), Universal McCann (EMEA director).

Appeared first in MediaVillage


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