Viral is Fine, but It's Not a Big Idea Unless You Have Scale

Media Mavens Discuss How to Make Integrated Campaigns Work

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NEW YORK ( -- Everyone in media seems to agree that big ideas promote brand engagement -- they're viral, social, user-generated, but what about repeatable? Curt Hecht, exec VP-chief digital officer for GM Planworks and Starcom MediaVest Group, said having a hot viral is just fine, but it doesn't become a really big media idea until you can build some scale around it.
Curt Hecht
Curt Hecht

"The [question to ask] about a big idea is: Is it a one-off or can you repeat it? Can you build a capacity where you can do it over and over again?" Mr. Hecht said at Advertising Age's 2007 Media Mavens event this morning. Mr. Hecht joined five other honorees in a panel discussion led by Ad Age Editor Jonah Bloom.

Positioning is key
For Babs Rangaiah, senior director-media and entertainment for Unilever, building scale on a campaign rests in the strength of the brand positioning. He used Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty as an example of a big media idea, since it leveraged a message that resonates with consumers in multiple media, besides just the widely distributed viral "Evolution."

"If you create a brand positioning that it strong, the executions become easier over time," Mr. Rangaiah said.

Meanwhile, Ian Schafer, founder-CEO of interactive agency Deep Focus, said working across multiple platforms is what makes a big media idea. "The best media ideas are the ones that tell stories across media," he said, citing his agencies work on Court TV's series "Parco P.I.," which included a billboard, blog and YouTube videos.

Bob Thacker, senior VP-marketing and advertising, Office Max, said the way to repeat a big idea is to create a "living brand." "Ads are like people because they have deep personalities," he said. "[Media] gives you the opportunity to create a multifaceted personality."

Fairly rosy picture
The panelists acknowledged there can be challenges attached to implementing game-changing ideas, but painted a fairly rosy picture, saying that if the ideas are compelling enough, it's not hard to convince media companies, agencies and marketers to go for them.

"Everybody is willing to try something now," said Eric Plaskonos, director-brand communications for Philips North America, pointing to Philips' move to sponsor commercial-free college football games or taking subscription cards out of Hearst titles to promote simplicity.

One impetus to big ideas is the need to control brand messages, said John Engberg, manager-global media and web development for Kohler Co. He said the marketers must get hip to the fact that conversations about their brand are happening online and it's up to them whether to join or not.

"I think there is the false belief among marketers that you truly can control the conversation," he said.

And, as Mr. Bloom pointed out, agencies are often blamed for impeding the execution of big ideas because they are still divided into silos. So what did the sole agency rep on the panel say about breaking down these silos?

Mr. Hecht stressed the collaboration between Publicis agencies Leo Burnett, Starcom and Digitas in the newly created Insight Factory. "We are collaborating around the clients. We can't focus on who owns the relationship," Mr. Hecht said.

To see all of Ad Age's 2007 Media Mavens, go to this special report.
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