We're Back to Where We Started, Right? Wrong

Most Creative/Media Integration Is Just Adding to an 'Inefficiency of Layers'

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Linda Sawyer
Linda Sawyer
About a decade or two ago, the industry, more or less as a whole, decided it made a lot of sense to begin separating media from creative. Clients and agencies alike saw a huge cost savings in lumping together and commodifying media. Furthermore, as the media landscape began to expand, unfold and ultimately explode into areas we had not even thought of, the ad industry somehow was swept up in the exhilaration of the massive buying clout of stand-alone media firms.

While most in the industry nodded their heads and agreed from a financial perspective, what was tragically lost in all of this, for those who participated, was the lack of control over the message and the big-picture context of how to truly engage the consumer.

That is, until now. Several media companies are experimenting with combining media and creative. There's Aegis and WPP's MindShare. Back in December 2007, Publicis' Starcom MediaVest began to integrate a creative-services boutique into its media portfolio.

So what's old is new and what's new is old. We're back to where we started, right? Not so fast.

'Inefficiency of layers'
I've examined a few different models agencies have floated for "integrating" media and creative. While I applaud the creative approaches I have seen thus far, most are simply adding to what I call "inefficiency of layers."

Linda Sawyer is CEO of Deutsch Inc. She joined Deutsch in 1989 and was named CEO in September 2005. She serves as chairman of the board for the Advertising Educational Foundation.
In one example, we are seeing that creative is offered as a stand-alone service at a media firm but is outside the integrated process. In another, media and creative disciplines operate autonomously but report to a central management. Sadly, these models fall far short of truly intertwining media and creative, and I doubt they will reap any benefit of "integration."

Why no mention of media and creative collaboration? In the past decade or so, we've found that not only does real magic occur when creative and media are combined but that the best ideas often happen in the hallways, at the coffee machine, even sometimes (embarrassingly) in the bathrooms. And did I mention results? It is imperative that we house nimble organizations that can alter message and media based on overall communication results.

The combined model makes perfect sense. Every discipline becomes conversant in all disciplines and, for lack of a better phrase, everyone wins. We're not the only ones. We're part of a small group of agencies, including Martin, Kirshenbaum and a few others, that have kept media and creative permanently linked. Is the crux the medium or the message? Quite frankly, I think it's both.

Retention tool
Still not convinced? Having media and creative all under one roof is an amazing recruitment tool. Recruitment tool? Yes. Not only for candidates considering us but as a retention tool for current employees, intertwining the disciplines destroys division and creates an environment where everyone feels vested and a creative at heart.

Obviously, the world is an entirely different place than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Creating communications with media and creative as separate practices is clearly not the way. Consumers are in control of content as well as the media they choose. Shouldn't marketers and agencies work the same way?

While I applaud agencies for taking the first steps to bring this back to the place where we started, I encourage them to pressure-test whether these evolved models will truly produce work that will meaningfully engage today's consumer and maximize results for clients.
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