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.

What do you think? Answer the poll to see what others think about this subject.


My Story as a Start Up Failure (so far!) in the Marijuana economy.


It all started in Detroit.

I met a guy who joked he was going to buy a marijuana dispensary with his bonus.

He gave me an idea I had never considered before.

I approached the possibilities with the intensive curiosity of my strategic training.

I pursued it relentlessly.

I got help and encouragement from lots of past colleagues, mentors and new connections.

I uncovered strategic insight > For the truly ill, obtaining one’s medication with dignity is the worst part of this medicine’s use.

I met lots of smart, driven, interesting people in the MMJ (Medical Marijuana) space.

I was clear-eyed and merciless in my decision-making at times.

I developed a killer brand identity idea.


I got nervous due to the subject matter of my pursuit.

I was unduly vague when describing my plans to potential partners outside the MMJ space.

I had trouble making solo decisions regarding product development focus.

I ran into roadblocks.

I over-estimated my network’s ability and willingness to help me merely for future potential.

I told my mom and my kids I was working on an idea to sell marijuana (profitably! legally!)

I found out a lot about being a start-up entrepreneur.

I got frustrated. A lot.

I got much smarter about how business really works.

I learned how to use lots of new software like Premiere Pro and LucidCharts.

I proved to myself that I’m a damn good UX designer, even if self-taught.

I proved to myself that I’m a pretty terrible visual designer, even if self-taught.

I got very knowledgeable about marijuana in general and the medical and recreational marijuana economy.

I practiced my social media skills to positive results. (@kindgrasshopper)

I learned a lot about myself, as a professional and more importantly as a person.

I put the whole damn thing on hold considering my savings depletion.

Bottom line: It has been worth every minute.

See the artifact: startwithgrasshopper.com (a terrible URL now that I recognize how most folks “start” in their teens, a really risky idea and one I don’t support)

What’s next? We’ll see. :)


2013 Mid-point Punditry Scorecard

Well, So far so good. Indeed, thanks to the NSA, Google’s new $35 Chromecast, and a myriad of acknowledgements that email, long the ugly step child of marketing, has proven itself as an ROI machine, we’re on track to go 5 for 5. Android’s failings form a UX perspective, and facebook abandonment by brands will just have to wait till later this year to happen it seems.  Tell us if we’re right or wrong in the comments.Image

Next! 2013 punditry you can draw on

We hate next year punditry. OK, so here’s ours anyway: Love em, hate em, but believe em. The New Year’s spirit is telling us it’s all true, plus the Moleskine never lies.

happy new year and peace.

2013 in 2012

ps – so? who has time for PPT & graphics? draw your own.

pps – i hope you have a minute or two leftover to respond with your thoughts in the comments section.

We’re all about MVP

Most Valuable What?

Warning: This post contains even more shameless self-promotion

What the heck is MVP? It means “Minimum Viable Product” in the software development world. It means, don’t wait until you have your vision completely built and running. Instead, launch with the minimum amount of content and functionality to start gauging feedback and making improvements.

That’s what this website is; it’s just the start. We’re digital experts, social media strategists, creative thinkers, entrepreneurial curiosity seekers, and lots of other things, but we aren’t developers (well, not yet anyway). We’re making the best use possible of the tools at our disposal and within our start-up’s budget. For now, that means WordPress.com, and if you know anything about WP.com, you know that it’s a pretty limited blogging platform. “Move to wordpress.org!” we’ve been counseled. “Let me design and build it for you!” we’ve been pitched. No thanks, maybe some day. For now, we’d rather boot-strap our web presence, like we’re bootstrapping our new venture.

To make a long story short, this site is going all MVP on your ass. Watch it as it changes and grows and evolves. Cuz, we believe it’s imperative that our web presence matches our brand, and frankly, it ain’t there yet.

Happy evolution-watching!

Bill & Kim

Now We’re in Business


Starting your own marketing agency is hard. Starting your own agency alone is even harder. Today, Hewson Group expands to a partnership between me and my wife, best friend and now official business partner, Kim Hewson. She’s a true entrepreneur, and will be our secret sauce when it comes to growth. Why she let me talk her into it is beyond me, but boy am I glad she did!


It’s hard to get out of the starting gate, but a strong team plus the newest technology always helps!

Additionally, we’re pretty sure we’ve explored every niche and corner of the marketing services industry, and for now, we’ve decided to focus squarely on the social media space. But not in a silo. You know as well as we do that social is becoming ingrained in every part of our work and personal lives. Having “social” at the heart of every client engagement we take on will allow us the flexibility to deliver on clients’ objectives across any channel or customer touchpoint with greatest success. That includes how we approach mobile, how we approach UX design, and how we approach cross channel opportunities like shopper marketing or brand story telling.

We feel everything in our culture is becoming socially enabled, at a truly accelerating pace, and agencies who make social an indelible piece of their own product are bound to remain at the edge of understanding how to engage with consumers to drive business results.

Wow, that feels better already.

Are you looking for an agency that gets your brand or business moving at today’s speed? That would be us. Ping us, we’ll be around.