What’s the future of “media” in advertising?

artscienceI started out as a media planner long before terms like “RTB” and “owned/earned/paid” were ever imagined. Now, I hear regularly that media planning and buying, the blended art and science of placing the right ad message to the right person at the right time, is the “new creative” element in successful advertising efforts.

However, based on my experiences, “media” at most agencies, especially offline media, is a calcified, arcane, insider’s game. I hate it for what it’s become; “clubby” back room deals, trading desk pricing and margin opacity, publisher-centricity rather than audience-centricity, upfront “negotiations” baloney and a race to the bottom on both CPMs and agency fee. I’m glad that “media is the new creative”, but it has a long way to go to get there, frankly, especially among media traditionalists. Much media creativity is required today; little is to be found, especially as relates to blending consumer experiences across channels, and across owned, earned and paid brand touches.

The first piece of advice I would give to any “integrated” media director today is to 1) read “the innovator’s dilemma” to better understand why and how things change in the accelerating, technology-driven economy we’re living in. 2) work directly with a creative director, a creative technologist, and an account planner to better understand the consumer as more than just a targeting parameter and 3) read their clients’ annual report to better understand their client’s true business issues that the agency has been hired to solve. Digital is pretty easy. It’s understanding media’s place in the whole marketing picture today that’s hard.

Also, because all paid media placement is moving to cross channel, attribution-focused and measured engagements, all media planners will have to become direct marketers, and quick. Once-vague media measurement methods are becoming more exact and “reactionable”. Creative solutions depend as much now on the “How” across earned, owned and paid media, as well as the traditional 5Ws of strategic definition, to define the brand communications experience. These how’s will come from a variety of sources, media planners should be first in line.

My ideal vision of the media department of the future would include not just planners, but cross-touchpoint user experience designers, message mappers and direct marketing scientists to, among other things, ensure that the intellectual property we have access to at publishers is as well leveraged by our clients as possible. The work that planners undertake (account, comms and media, although not sure we need media planners beyond comms planners frankly) has to be seamless with one another, feeding each other, all centered around the consumer as she moves about her daily life.

Bottom line, agencies, especially with the latest merger news, need to bring new energy to media, respecting media’s past and present, while having a differentiated vision for it’s future that what is being focused on today. Today’s media leaders need to be able to stand in front of both online and offline media pro’s and clients and gain their trust and acceptance of the great future we get to play in, AND make it all work with creative, technology and strategy teams.

The future of creativity will be driven in many ways by media data. Media departments need to figure out just how to make this a reality.

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