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Can the creative/media schism ever be fixed?

I sat through a presentation from a big, bright media agency the other day.

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They spent a lot of time discussing some of the seismic themes that are changing the shape of their industry: programmatic buying, trading desk specifications, big data, native advertising, content creation. Have I lost you already?

I hope not. Whatever job you do in this business, the changes breaking over the media industry (which is, after all, the gateway to the consumer and the sponge that soaks up the biggest chunk of most marketers’ budgets) will fundamentally affect everything. Still, I’m with Nick Emery in hoping that we don’t lose sight of the human, of the instinctive and of how to have lots of fun in this new media world.

Unless creative and media strategy are conceived together, you might end up with missable/forgettable advertising

But this particular big, bright media agency seemed in danger of losing sight of what all these tools were actually for: to identify and secure the best place to showcase the best creative content to the right people.


As I sat through the presentation, there was not  a single example of the creative work their planning and buying was toiling on behalf of. And it turned out the presenters hadn’t even seen a high-profile new ad from one of their biggest clients and for which their agency had planned and bought the media. I thought those days were over.

I’ve also sat through many ta-da unveilings of a new creative campaign without there being any reference to where it will be seen. The creative team know it’s going to run on TV, or in the press. But exactly where (and when and for how long)… hmm, they’re a bit hazy on that. It’s hardly a new problem; far from it. And mostly we all muddle through despite this schism. And perhaps all those attempts at collaboration and integration Sellotape everything together well enough. But as Phil Georgiadis points out, maybe something important has got lost along the way. Take BMW, which has just shifted its creative account out of WCRS after 35 years and into FCB Inferno. Is the media strategy as much to blame for the creative failings as the creative agency? Georgiadis says BMW’s original media strategy – admittedly conceived for a much simpler media landscape – was led by Robin Wight and "we debated the media plan as much as the creative that filled it".

The perennial argument is not that creative should lead media (though sometimes it should). Or that media strategy should shape creative (though often it should). But that, unless the two are conceived together, you might end up with the sort of missable/forgettable advertising that BMW has been putting its logo on for years. By the way, I can remember exactly where I was when I first saw five out of the six Bartle Bogle Hegarty ads. That’s creative and media class.

claire.beale@haymarket.com      @clairebeale

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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