(This post was written by Escape Pod media guru Matt Johnson)
We at The Escape Pod recently attended the Chicago CMO Summit. The idea behind the event was to gather CMOs and other marketing executives from leading companies across the Midwest, and allow them to share best practices and discuss the pertinent issues they face. The day featured a smattering of keynote speakers and panel discussions all centered on what we all can be doing betters as marketers.
As is always the case with this type of event, some topics were more interesting than others, broad swipes at safe topics. In other words, nothing particularly earth shattering or cringe worthy….that is until the day’s final keynote address.
The final presentation was entitled “How and Where to Spend Your Marketing Dollars”, by Don Schultz – Professor Emeritus-in-Service of Integrated Marketing Communications, Medill School of Journalism Northwestern University.
Professor Schultz made some very good points about how many of the models/tools we use when developing media plans are antiquated and were developed in a time when the media market place was much less cluttered/complicated, and not based in the modern world where multiple media platforms are often consumed simultaneously. This is all very spot on – times have changed and, obviously, our approach needs to account for this.
The Professor then unveiled new research he had helped develop, that addresses this brave new world of media consumption, and when applied should lead us all to smarter, more effective communications plans. Using the Auto Industry as an example, he then showed us that his model would drastically change the media mix used by automakers – way less television and way more internet – leading to greater influence and (implied) sales.
Now I am a media guy, so I find this quest to build the ultimate planning tool fascinating. And in 17+ years in the business, I have seen a lot of them – from basic reach/frequency ROI models to consumers placed in MRI machines to see how their brain reacts to various media platforms. But what bothers me about all of this testing is that the most important factor is always missing – THE CREATIVE.
As Professor Shultz when on about how more banner impression and fewer television impressions would generate more car sales, I found myself asking “but what if the idea doesn’t lend itself to banner ads, or what if the agency has an amazing outdoor concept?”. So at during the Q&A portion, I raised my hand and asked the Professor “where does the creative factor in when determining the mix”. His response? “Let me guess, you’re from a creative agency? It doesn’t factor in, this is about media.”
As I said, I am a media guy. So I get the importance of understanding the target and making sure we place our messaging in relevant places at an efficient price. But to pretend that the creative plays no role in determining how we approach the consumer is just plain naïve.
The worst thing to happen to our industry was the decision to split media off from the creative agency in the name of profit but under the guise of gaining clout in the market place (a myth I will address another day), because this is the result: Media teams that are developing communications plans in a vacuum, and Creative teams that are either forced to abandon what might be fertile creative ground, or working on ideas that won’t see the light of day, regardless of how break-through it might be, because it’s “not in the plan”. Our tools and research should be directional, not absolute. And as long as holding companies continue to tell clients that media and creative are mutually exclusive, our industry will suffer.
One last thought on media mix, creative and the auto industry. Does anyone think that it was a media modeling tool that led Mini Cooper to launch their brand in the U.S. with outdoor?
Vinny – thanks for the use of your soapbox. I hope I have done it justice.