Getting out of a campaign mindset and into the cultural programmer mindset means looking at what your user or your audience is experiencing, asking yourself: What do they need to experience from me right now? If you can crack that, when you shift to “selling” it will come naturally as part of the ongoing relationship.
Invest in strategy
You can't create if you're just thinking in tactics, because they won't create an integrated universe. It doesn't mean that tone, style and audience even need to be exactly the same in every brand tactical expression. But the thread you’re following does need to be strongly laid out before you even start. That’s why we have more strategists than any other kind of employee at our company.
Leaning on strategy isn’t new, obviously—and strategic thinking isn’t something exclusive to strategists. It just has to be used more broadly. You have to ask yourself: How do we take these foundational advertising tenets—such as creative platform, brand manifesto and audience insights—and bridge them into multiple formats and multichannel storytelling?
Think like a showrunner
This means you have to shift from a campaign mindset to programming content for your brand. I always think of it as a showrunner for a TV season. Don’t just think of single episodes. Create for your audience—what part of the story do we want to tell them and what creative device do we want to use to tell them? What stories and formats will build on each other over time?
New forms of media don’t mean storytelling is dead; if anything, they make it richer. Even experiential activations are built around a narrative. They’re designed to change your perception of the world or a piece of intellectual property or a brand from the moment you walk in the front door to when you leave through the exit. That’s true for every piece of content, regardless of the format.
Structure your teams differently
The divorce of creative and media hasn’t done anyone in this business any favors. Creatives complain of being strangled by the restrictions media buys place on them; media people feel constrained by the lack of creativity. So, bring them together along with your strategists.
Letting creative inform the media strategy and letting media inform the creative is powerful on its own. But because we're creating in so many formats and platforms, and with different media partners, media brings ideas into the same universe as the creative that's being built. That idea might look like a unique partnership. It might look like an interactive experience. It might look like the reimagining of a platform or technology. Those ideas can come from media, and they can be creative as hell.
Dig into new media platforms yourself
One of the most important things a marketer can do is to become engaged not just with content, but with platforms themselves. Or at least hire people who are digging into those platforms already. Because entertainment companies, influencers, advertisers and everyday people are all creating for these platforms, and they're inventing new formats, new lengths and new storytelling techniques all the time.
Ask yourself: What’s working? What has relevance to your brand and to your story? What might be a unique way to tell your story? Just look at TikTok, where there’s a huge gap in the understanding of marketers on what's happening there. People know it's big, but unless you’re digging into it, you’re going to think it’s just kids dancing and lip-syncing. It’s not.
If you’re a chief marketing officer, think about changing your mindset from a predetermined output. The business structure may unlock budgets for advertising. If the brief is built around how the money is allocated, you will get a campaign. An agency that is evolving for the future should start with your objective and bring you diverse creative approaches. Depending on your business maybe this is via a big ad campaign, or maybe you don’t need even a single ad-like object. Let the objective and the idea determine the output.
When you do that, you’re not just checking the boxes of media, you’re asking yourself what’s possible. That changes the way you see the world and it changes how you hire, train and brainstorm. If you start from a supposition that everything is possible, and everything is media, you're going to create things that look very different to both your brand and your audience.
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