In Search of Small Ideas

When Creative and Media Live Apart, Big Ideas Die

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Alberto Ferrer Alberto J. Ferrer
Many clients have their Hispanic media work done by a large media company and their creative by a Hispanic shop. I think that separation is a mistake.

There are two issues here:

1.The fallacy of media clout generating significant CPM savings for advertisers, and

2.The strategic error of separating the message from its delivery channel.

The Decreasing Relevance of Clout
For years, media agencies pushed the notion of buying clout. And for years it made sense. When dealing with a handful of networks in undifferentiated broad-based buys, pooling funds from different clients to negotiate the best deal from the networks was an everyone-wins-except-the-networks play. Still, average CPMs at the networks continued to rise year after year.

Then a few things started to happen:
  1. Media fragmentation meant that negotiations needed to be had with myriad properties, not just the big three/four networks, effectively decreasing the effectiveness of the cross-client negotiation (for example, the Golf Channel is not a good idea on every client's media plan, so a client that needs the Golf Channel on their plan would derive little benefit from a media agency's clout).
  2. The Upfront model began to crack, with significant advertisers staying out altogether and many others decreasing their participation. In an era of accountability, committing so much of their media dollars before the year even started made less and less sense. That left media agencies with fewer dollars to negotiate.
  3. The money started to move away from broadcast and into non-traditional areas (sometimes referred to as below-the-line) like direct marketing, promotions, public relations, and digital. The notions of media clout don't exactly translate to promotions, for example, or to the development of websites.
The Separation of Church and State
Separating the messaging (creative) from its conduit (media channel) is simply a bad idea that hails from when Betty was still on a novela in Colombia. When advertising meant creating one message and blasting it to as many eyeballs as possible, this might have made sense. Not anymore:
  1. When Reach takes a back seat to Engagement, the media channel and the message become more intertwined than ever and it gets more and more difficult to determine where media ends and messaging begins.
  2. When "ROI" and "accountable" are at the top of the agenda, and knowing that performance is driven by both the message and the media, how can one separate the two and still be effective?
  3. When clients seek the Big Idea, how can they separate the folks who are charged with developing them? What's a big creative idea without the media portion? Or a big media idea without the creative part? They're both small, not big ideas. Big Ideas encompass both.
In fact, in the Marketing Media & Ecosystem 2010 study done by Booz Allen for the ANA, the IAB, and the Four A's, 76% of the over 250 marketers surveyed (including 75 industry leaders) agreed that media and creative should be rebundled.

What About Hispanic?
In the Hispanic market, the points noted above are joined by one further—and critical—issue which is expertise in the market. While creative might be cozily living in a Hispanic agency, media for that same target audience might live uncomfortably in a general market media conglomerate where it probably occupies a lower-rent neighborhood.

In that environment, Hispanic market expertise is scarce, passion for the market is lacking, and even interest might dwindle with time. It doesn't make sense to give a general market agency the Hispanic creative portion of a business. The same applies to the media portion.

As fellow blogger Bill Imada discussed in his post of Oct. 17, general market agencies are not yet ready to take over the multicultural duties from specialized agencies. In my opinion, that applies as much to media as it does to creative.

Things are different now. The old reasons for unbundling Hispanic media no longer apply. The best approach is keeping media and creative together at the Hispanic agency that has the knowledge of—and passion for—the market. As I've said before, if your Hispanic agency is not up to the task, don't turn to the mainstream media agency, but rather change Hispanic shops.
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