Is a New Creative Resource a Threat or Opportunity for Agencies?

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There is no question that the media have unique insights into their audiences and special expertise in communicating with them. Consider how magazine editors build strong and continuing relationships with their readers by thoroughly understanding their interests and amplifying them.

Some years ago, when I led media at BBDO, I noted that while we spent huge sums for our clients in magazines, the quality of the print ads, in my opinion, were not nearly at the level of our TV ad output. Therefore, I hosted a series of informal luncheons bringing together magazine editors and our creative people. The result was an increased understanding of the magazines’ ways of engaging their audiences in a continuing dialogue, an ongoing brand relationship.

There’s no question in my mind that such a dialogue, then and now, is a useful enhancement of the creative development process.

More recently, Time Warner’s Global Marketing Group, under the direction of two Y&R alumni, was reported to be involved in developing ads for Johnson & Johnson. The Lowe agency and Time Warner are working in the original image of the ad agency as pioneered by J. Walter Thompson, a true partnership of advertiser, media and agency.

Bob McCurdy, president of sales for Clear Channel Radio, shared with me some "demo" commercials his creative teams had developed for Coca-Cola and other advertisers.

Radio’s biggest obstacle to inclusion in media plans, in my experience, has often been agency creative denial, once succinctly put to me by a copywriter: “Gene, I can’t put radio commercials on my reel.”

Well, Clear Channel and its cohorts can put quite a bit of energy into developing effective radio spots and may well have to if they want to see radio billings turn around.

As for the big media kahuna, television, how long will it be before the TV networks and producers move beyond product placement and brand embeds into the creation and production of TV commercials themselves? Any smart network manager watching ad dollars drifting away is likely to do whatever is necessary to keep advertisers in the fold, including making ads.

Clients want ROI and the media know how to generate it from their audiences; otherwise they couldn’t exist.

I suggest that ad and media agencies alike embrace the media as creative partners, to employ the special talents and capabilities of the media to contribute to the development of effective, integrated and engaging communications relationships with media audiences.

By bringing this expert “third partner” into this process, advertising and media agencies may be able to find a new way to move beyond the gap opened by unbundling and to develop new ways to engage consumers and build brands, sales and ROI.

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Gene DeWitt is chairman DeWitt Media Options.

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