An end to the armistice

The First World war didn’t end on the 11th November 1918. This was merely an armistice. The war ended a year later with the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles that followed.
I think that it is high time that the armistice maintained between creative and media agencies since our historic schism in the mid 90s be concluded with a peace conference and final treaty.
Here are my starters for the treaty between those interested in the advertising canvas and those interested in its content. They are from the point of view of the creative agency delegates at the conference and consequently need the imput of media combatants.
Final Treaty between Communication and Media Agencies
Draft 1.0

1) We ceede to you ownership of the consumer and an understanding of their behaviour. Segment away media chums we will use the results of your endevours to help sharpen the insights that we remain supreme at generating.
2) We will retain ownership of the brand and the ideosyncracies that make it special. The brand and business remain the start point for our communications strategies.
3) We ceede to you evaluation of the efficiency of adveritising expenditure while we retain ownership of the evaluation of advertising effectiveness.
4) We express our concern at your insistence that the outcome of advertisng can be predicted. Only poor advertsing is predicatable – the real deal has a magic that can lead its outcome to be totally disproportionate to the investment. Go easy on the econometrics they are useful but not a panacea and we suspect you are only this interested out of desperation to lift your fees off the floor
5) We acknowledge that many of your attitudes and much of your behaviour is driven by bitter experience and that the vast majority of the work we give you to place is unmittigated rubbish. We express our heartfelt apologies for this. We will redouble our endevours to ensure that the work we produce has half a chance of working and you have to spend less of your time desperately trying to optimise nonsense.
6) We express deep regret at the way in which media and creative recommendations so rarely seem to go hand in hand these days and formally record our concern that this is ultimately to the detriment of the client’s business.
7) We state formally that we are no longer ‘media neutral’ but media agnostic – you make the recommendation and we will adapt our work whether film, sound, 2D creative or brand conversations to the media you select. By the way washroom panels do not count as new media.
8) Think about this coverage and frequency marlarky – we aren’t totally convinced by it’s brutality and the philosophy of relentlessly beating consumers into submission.
9) We categorically state our respect and admiration for the media part our our business and that many of us regret the split that must now be formalised but has left both sides poorer and a generation of our people unfamailiar with the work of the other side.
10) Tan shoes never work with dark suits.

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16 Replies to “An end to the armistice”

  1. I guess I could be said to be a media delegate…but I’m not sure I am.
    However: Love the sentiment and I agree with many of your points.
    As Steve Heyer said – do we need coverage and frequency? No – we need idea driven engagement.
    But point 7 – doesn’t that suggest that the channel recommendation take primacy in the process? Shouldn’t the idea and it’s expression be part of the same thought?
    Don’t we need to move beyond the structural legacy of the industry?
    Isn’t it counterintuitive to divide thinking about the idea and the manifestation of that idea? Ideas only exist as an iteration: form is defined by media.
    Shouldn’t then the schism evaporate? Not structurally in implementational terms – press buying is a specialist skill like design – but the thinking? Shouldn’t the thinking re-integrate? Aren’t we generalist specialists?
    Shouldn’t planners come from an understanding of consumers and their behaviour, the brand and its behaviour, channels both established and emerging, consumption thereof, ideas and the creative process to express them?
    Shouldn’t planners, in essence, be whole? Account and Comms, media and creative – as one?
    Surely then media and creative recommendations would work hand in hand?

  2. Excellent – a comment from Faris – now we can get stuck in.
    I think the central debate is can the idea ever be separated from its canvas or context. The vogue for media neutrality suggests it can, I’m not sure – as in genuinely not sure. Architects know they are designing a school not an office block when they start out. Shouldn’t we.

  3. How can the medium ever come first? What if you don’t know what the best medium is? What if you’re yet to hear about it/unaware it even exists? The argument that you can’t divorce the idea from its canvas predicates a comprehensive knowledge of every possible platform on the part of the planner.
    I say work out what is to be communicated and then work out its most powerful iteration/s. The nature of the creative mind (not just ‘creatives’, of course) is that it might well jump to a platform ahead of this schedule so that the strategic idea and the execution hit together as one inspiration. Such is the nature of the intuitive, disorderly brain. All that’s happening is this case, is that the brain captures the strategy so well it expresses it simultaneously.
    I think. Although i’m always ready to be wrong.

  4. Amen to point 9: the split has been hugely counterproductive for all but media agency owners.
    And I agree with your response to Faris’ comment: we need to have a view about what we’re trying to build, as it were.
    But you contradict this observation, and point 3, in number 7. Effectiveness is not simply something to be measured after the event, surely? The different types of canvas, as you call them, will be more or less effective in delivering campaign objectives. So if you’re interested in effectiveness then you need to have a view on canvas-selection.
    Having worked on both sides of the fence, my experience is that this conflict between efficency and effectiveness typifies the lack of understanding between the two sides. Creative agencies don’t get that media buying agencies need to quantify what they’re buying to ensure that clients don’t get ripped off. More worryingly, many media agencies don’t even get that there is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness.
    This for me is the real problem with the split. The process – and profits – of media buying has come to dominate the way the major media agencies think.
    So yes, the only solution is to reintegrate everything. And until that happens, the best work around is to split media buying from media – or canvas – selection. Which, I guess, is one of the reasons why Faris and his chums have been so successful.

  5. I stole the canvas idea from Mark Holden of Phd at a rather good North London dinner party. I am hoping he will contribute to this debate.
    On efficeincy and effectiveness I just want us to be clear about the difference and the way that we both contribute to each.
    Efficiency is for me about how well we collectively convert budget into outcome
    Effectiveness is how well we collectively meet those objectives
    I believe advertising can be effective while being hideously ineffcient – you can spend your way to your desired result.

  6. Great approach. Delighted to see you’re happy to split ‘ownership’ of consumers and the brand the way you have. Not sure however about the relationship between media and content, as has been discussed above. If content is king, as surely it must be, doesn’t this mean creative agencies should be the driving force for deciding which is the best channel for the content to appear in? I would argue it is much better for briefs to go in to teams without any media channel being dictated. The ideal approach is for media and creative planners to work together to decide channels, but not before there is some idea of the approach that is going to deliver the desired results. After all, the answer might not be advertising or ‘comms’ at all.

  7. Am I really that boring or is this post hideously dull? I really wanted to get some action going with the media people on our relationship going forward. No one has yet taken up the gauntlet I have thrown down to them.

  8. Maybe that’s because the media people are too busy:
    a) engaging in the creative process
    b) worring about how to measure the proliferation of channels accelerated by the principles of Web 2.0
    c)coming to grips with increasingly fragmented consumers whose individual behavioural shadows alter throughout the day.
    I agree that the idea and it’s expression should be part of the same thought. As new technologies change at an exponential rate, they are becoming increasingly bound to the creative idea.
    With regard to effectiveness vs efficiency: surely the conversation should revolve around how we adapt our approach to measurement and its manifestation in order to cope with today’s multi-platform media? The fact that Google became the No. 1 most influential brand of 2005 (as surveyed by InterBrand) without a major ad campaign highlights this issue.
    And as channels and audiences fragment, so we need to reinvent the traditional models of advertising and media to create new forms of consociation and collaboration within the industry. We have to fundamentally change our DNA if we are to survive the challenges ahead.
    In the words of Clement Mok we need to “tie together the deep ethnographic understanding of the user, the system engineering understanding and the brand/marketing understanding”.
    Perhaps the boundaries have moved to such an extent that the treaty has become extraneous.

  9. I’m not sold on this thing about and idea and its expression being one and the same.
    The concept af media agnosticism is about saying we have no idea or great interest in which ways this idea will reach the audience. This is based on the observation that a new advertsing delivery mechanism is invented everyday – most of which are free – and so the idea cannot be coupled to its delivery as we don’t yet know what this will be.

  10. Another point of view from the media side but like Faris I am a little bit uncomfortable about it. I guess this is because we appreciate that our part of ‘a message in a medium’ is broken and suppose that you feel uncomfortable with your bit as well. Our efficiency bit that we do further down the chain does not weigh heavy on the mind of the average strategist who happens to work on the media side trust me! Only when you do decide to do TV or whatever why not make sure it is value for money – that has to be someone’s job surely? Personally if I could give it you then you can have it it’s yours:). Here’s another thing that’s a bit shocking – the medium itself does not matter that much either. Who cares if an ad is a TV ad or a print ad – chances are it will be pretty irrelevant either way so no need for any wasted energy having the wrong debate. What does really matter is how you use channels and what you are trying to build. The example I always use is big brother. What if either agency or the client came up with this as a thought and media went away and said TV, PR, and Mobile and creative came up with some beautiful advertising in each of those channels?? Which ever came first we would both have failed and blamed each other (though it might have done ok at Cannes.) But then what is big brother… a real thing that a number of different windows (a term I prefer to canvas) breathe life into. Neither a creative thought or a use of media it just is. To cut to the chase it means seamless is the only option. Someone with control on either side who truly gets it could make it happen or more likely the client surprisingly enough, but in the absence of a better way it means stopping being delegates and trying to make it on a personal level to the point where we feel truly capable of integrated planning recommendations.
    Cheers, David

  11. Hello all.
    Having read your latest contribution late last night, Richard, I was going to suggest that you were being a tad optimistic expecting much involvement from the media community. And then David came long to prove me wrong. Bravo.
    As for your question about interestingness of this post, I’m sure you’re far from boring but I think the discussion does fall into the semantic swamp that envelops many of these kinds of debates.
    So often, we talk about ideas, channels, integration, even brands, with little common understanding of what exactly each term refers to.
    I think David’s example of Big Brother is an example of this. I may be misreading him, but it appears that he’s talking about a brief to come up with an idea/channel mix for a programme (ie a product/service) being answered by an idea/channel mix for some advertising (to promote that product/service). Perhaps I’m just being dense. It wouldn’t be the first time.
    And on the subject of my dimness, I’m afraid you lost me with your definition of effectiveness and efficiency, Richard. You might need to speak more slowly. Or louder. Or both. Perhaps at one of Russell’s get-togethers?

  12. The BB example is just saying that if we tried to come up with a brand platform idea that was like it (even though the example is not a branded one) then the normal way of working would mean we would come up with some advertising and a media plan. Platforms that include; participation, content, evolution, new behaviours,(all the things that we know we now need as the old model does’nt work,) are seemless wholes e.g. try to separate big brother into messages/content and channels was the point?? Like the Campaign for real beauty (Advertising led), like Nike Yoga and Run London ( I suspect client led,) like Ishaggedhere or some of the other Naked stuff (media led.) The only process I can think of to get ideas like these exceptions off the ground that consumers will choose to buy into is though working seemlessly in joint recommendations. Thanks

  13. Creativity is as much about new advertsing delivery mechanisms as it is about content.
    Would ever have taken the world by storm if the content had been developed in isolation from the media?

  14. really feel like i should have an opinion here. not sure what it is though. Us media blokes only deal in canvas not in content…hence I have nothing to say. The fact that I am posting says it all (medium is the message and all that). I feel that my presence is enough. enough to say i care about this issue. the fact that i have posted a message surely makes up the most significant part of the pie of meaning. whatever i wrote would only ever be the smaller part. so perhaps, the environment/behavour is key. is king. the fact that a company advertises says the most part, the message is always the smaller part.

  15. think you’re right about dull richard, the comments you made at the start sort-of wrapped it up. The solution is pretty simple, both sides of planning are and should be one and the same, the seperation is structural, industry driven and does not pass the common sense bit.
    I thought the tanned shoes bit might get a tad more comment though.
    good job the strategy cow came to save us

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