How media and creative can come together

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I've got a few ideas about how media agencies and creative agencies-our teams-might better come together. You are welcome to debate them, but I ask you to hear them.

Advertising is not a production line

It's true that great advertising starts with a brilliant idea, but ideas aren't restricted by geography. They can come from anywhere.

The process that once started with a client-service brief to the creative, then creative to production, then production to media, is entirely obsolete. That process won't produce the broadest palette of ideas, and holistic thinking doesn't thrive inside such parameters. There's a little bit more chaos involved, and ideas fire from all fronts. The ability to conceive a great idea isn't limited to someone who has the words "creative," "copy" or "art" in their title. Nor are great ideas tied to where we sit. Some of you still think media needs to be physically reintegrated. To you I say let's remember why we separated in the first place. It wasn't because we wanted bigger titles, or more money. It wasn't about ego. The market simply dictated it as clients demanded it. Separating in order to integrate was the only way to deliver what was needed. And believe me, if we didn't separate, we wouldn't have the right stuff to bring to the table. An office relocation won't improve our ability to find the consumer. Instead, let's abandon the assembly-line-worker mentality and replace it with a championship-sports-team approach.

Stop arguing over who owns planning

Here again, P&G is right. The consumer is boss. There is plenty of room in our world for anyone and everyone who can get us closer to the boss. I mentioned our consumer-context planners. A few other media agencies have similar specialists. Many of you have agency planners. I believe the agency account planner and media consumer-context planners can and must coexist peacefully, to the benefit of our clients.

Understanding the consumer is more than one full-time job. Account planners focus on the brand strategy and message-what the brand should say, with what tonality and in what form. Context planners focus on the optimal channel or context for delivering such messages-which path, which place and time, which mode and context. They discover how to attract and engage the consumer in the right place, at the right time, in the right frame of mind to influence behavior.

Do the functions overlap? Certainly. Together they can ultimately paint a more complete picture of the target consumer and leverage their collective insights to make the brand communication work harder. To get the absolute best, most actionable insights, media agencies and creative agencies must, at minimum, stop purely talking brand speak and find ways to make insights deliver valuable and tangible returns.

Broaden our concept of creative

In a world increasingly populated by TiVo, broadband, multiple screens in multiple places, we have to be brilliant craftsmen and women across every viable platform. Many agency models are still built off of reels, storyboards and TV ads that can be spun into other formats and retrofit into other media.

At this past American Association of Advertising Agencies Media conference, Cindy Gallup said that the reason agency reels look TV-heavy is primarily because award shows still focus on the traditional work. I get that, but I still see a majority of creative work being built off of the 30-second TV platform. Too often, when we venture into the more pioneering forms, we either can't deliver the content, or we can't deliver it with the necessary speed and cost efficiency. The talent is there, beyond a doubt. But the agency concept-to-copy process can take months and cost a half million dollars to produce.

Many of the best creatives argue, "I know how to do a good online ad." And they do. Brilliantly. But we have to improve the cycle time and price tag required to get the most relevant message in front of the consumer.

`Powerful' creative needed

It is our job to be contact experts across all forms of media. Some media practitioners boast about buying clout, or a new approach to print. Many of us have moved aggressively in the digital space. And believe me, those strengths are essential. But it's incumbent upon us to move beyond the traditional touch points, just as much as it is for you. The "where" world is increasingly about events and sponsorship, experiential points of contact with consumers. It is about word of mouth, embedded content, complementary content and branded entertainment. We have to know how to buy and sell experience. It's our job to guide our clients into these arenas with care, relevance and engagement. In my opinion, these practices need to sit under the media purview. They also can't exist in a silo. Powerful experiences require powerful creative.

Our clients want to be closer to us

They want to see how contact is mapped and delivered. They want a front-row seat inside the process. Inside the creative agency there is a multitude of strategic people who are qualified to facilitate such a connection. I'm talking about the account executive and client-service director. They don't live inside media companies. We have a host of content experts and specialists who know how to clear a path to the consumer, but we are in short supply of experienced strategists who can see the broadest view of contact and content, and how they fuel each other.

Perhaps we need to re-engineer the role of the account director. Think about it. Several major events have changed the agency model in the past few years. Media spun off. Digital took off. And advertising started being replaced by communications planning. Still, I don't know if we ever evaluated all of the agency roles to see what might need reengineering. Maybe now is the time.

Adapted from a speech, CEO of Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group, given at the American Association of Advertising Agencies Management Conference on May 5.

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