A very wise ad man once told me that the role of the planner is to bring the consumer to life for our clients. It is our job to explain why, in a world where we could all stay at home with our individual mini screen, we are flocking to cinemas in increasing numbers for shared experiences. It is our job to explain why an impact in the centre break of the Bake Off final is not the same as an impact online when we search for a recipe. We need to bring to life the role of video in online purchase journeys as well as the role of posters or radio in driving to school journeys.
The greatest danger for media agencies is that we become “impact providers”, delivering cost efficient impacts across a seemingly interchangeable array of channels. Impact providers are valued by the CTR they deliver, by campaign efficiency and the challenge to drive cost per impact downwards. The opportunity for us is to work as partners with client and creative agency in providing insight into consumer behaviours and building campaigns that reach consumers with impact, meaning and effect. If the creative agency account planner is focussed on understanding consumer motivations and relevant messaging, the media team need to bring to the table the role each channel plays in consumers lives, the role of diverse platforms in the purchase journey and the importance of advocates, influencers and peers in shaping brand perceptions. The consumer is fascinating and our role is to immerse the client in their world.
We talk about the media landscape as if it is an environment built by tech companies, content providers and broadcasters. We forget that a rich and varied media landscape only exists where consumers’ needs are met by channels, where consumers engage, share, create content and emotionally connect with each other. A media landscape has to be populated, talked about and intertwined with real lives. The role of the media agency is to understand why and how consumers are engaging with channels, the potential impact each engagement can have on emotions, perceptions and behaviours. Our role is to explain why Twitter is not the same communications environment as Facebook, Tik Tok is not the same as Broadcast VOD and a 48 sheet poster is not interchangeable with 6 sheets in shopping malls. To reduce the world to impacts is failing our clients and our industry.
The successful media agency of the future will need to balance the “What?” and the “Why?” of the media landscape. Smart tech stacks providing AI can tell us What is happening in the market – How many people are using platforms, what our Reach is; we can micro interrogate our Clicks, Downloads and Sales. However, even the smartest AI cannot tell us “Why?” Why will thousands of people queue at Westfield for hours to visit Pokemon but leave a website if it doesn’t download in 30 seconds? Why pay £13 to go to the cinema when you can watch Netflix or Sky Movies?
To bring real insights to our client briefs we need to understand the economic landscape, the cultural landscape and deep-seated human needs. Tik Tok is growing because it facilitates self-expression and creativity. At its core it connects us to each other.
Cinema is growing because, in a high-pressure world, we are seeking moments when we can laugh and cry with family and friends. We are making memories. Of course technology facilitates this growth by making online booking easier, WhatsApp makes organising nights out with friends easier and online reviews inform our decision-making. However, if we can’t explain to our clients the power of the cinema communications moment, a cinema impact just looks more expensive that an online impact where we often don’t know the environment we are appearing in.
And the environment we appear in matters…even within any one platform we need to understand the impact of delivering our client content in environments which can range from friendly banter to political debate, mental health issues, self-harm or baking. Twenty years ago, life was easy – we knew our client’s Christmas perfume ads would appear on a right hand page in Vogue, in peak Drama on TV and on great 48 sheet posters. Now, the modern video campaign can appear on my Facebook feed, on Instagram boozy banter, when I am shopping on eBay or searching for a restaurant online. Media agencies need to retain responsibility for environment. We need to challenge ourselves to understand how our ad will appear to our consumers. We need to tighten up on targeting and not accept environments that don’t make us proud of our work.
To succeed in the future, Media Agencies need to seize the opportunity offered by the exciting new world of diverse platforms serving diverse human needs. We need to ensure we are champions of the consumer, bringing them to life as human beings, not impacts. We need to integrate with our creative agency partners to provide genuine insight to our clients. Most of all, we need to judge ourselves not by the efficiency of our campaigns but by the effect.
Thank you to my wise old ad man, Neil Cassie, ex Worldwide Director of Planning, Leo Burnett