Dump the Media RFP for a Real Creative Job

If you have a hedonistic weekend, you will tell your Mother the tale of those two days with a very different narrative to the one you will tell your best friend. It’s the same weekend but tweaked to make sure the story lands with the appropriate level of entertainment and sensitivity.

The same principle applies to distributing an idea that has to work in media today. If it stops at the big, unifying, hero concept, that’s just the weekend.

When choices were simpler, media provided a passive context for whatever advertising wanted to say. Ads were placed as static creative objects and a singular idea did all the heavy lifting (and thirty seconds of video is still a static object).

Media is now active. Algorithms plus people create the context into which advertising arrives. This creates a secondary layer of creativity which is where you get to decide if the story the brand is telling is the one for the Mother or the one for the best friend.

But this secondary layer is the piece that gets the least attention or is left to machines. It is where the creative opportunity for a contemporary media agency lives.

Increasingly the ads people see are assembled live, based upon a handful of data points. These inform a library, a template or a modular creative asset. They are the reason your web page takes so long to load as an ad is being built based upon these signals. The technology is smart so it is a bit disappointing when all it delivers is a banner asking you if you’d like to buy something you have already bought. That’s because no real planning happens for this content when an idea is signed off and creativity is left to cookies.

Creative opportunities in media have evolved at a faster pace than creative application. For years planners in media agencies have been able to chop up any category’s consumer journey into decision making stages. But often the same thing is said at each stage. Or the original idea slowly gets butchered into smaller spaces along the way.

Getting this right is about owning this secondary layer of creative development; how an idea works in a digital world. Content planning sits more easily in a blended production and media environment as it’s about building working creative around predictive behaviors, not creative concepts.

Doing it requires some simple roadmap development of ‘if — then’ scenarios for what an ad will say to the humans it encounters. These are just the basics of media targeting like who, where and why but we can now add some contemporary filters to help tell a story in a way people will be more receptive to.

It doesn’t get in the way of developing a unifying idea. That becomes even more important so all those ‘if — then’ scenarios have a clear north star to ladder back up to.

But it saves a creative concept from being diluted by the rules a machine will apply when it goes out into the world. Dynamic Creative Optimization servers are just responding to data. And data should always be about correlation, not causation. Data is just a view on the what; what colors, what fonts, what copy, what shapes create a response. But not why it works.

Add people and design to that activation process though and we can serve up more interesting things to look at and listen to. Think about how gaming works; the incredible sensory experience a user gets as they progress through a game is based upon fundamentally similar rules-based principles. Surely we can manage a banner.

Designing the right roles for content and applying the right creativity to how each asset turns up, requires time. But it is worth doing. Any range of marketing effectiveness studies will demonstrate that optimizing media to within an inch of its life will on average contribute to 9–10% of total marketing efforts. But ROI from creative gets into contributing 40%+ of the effects.

There’s currently a little buzz around the rise of AI in media planning and robots churning out thousands of media plans in seconds. This language is possibly deceiving. What these technologies do is produce media investment allocation scenarios. Not a plan — just where it’s best to spend your money. This is important as in a market like the USA where there are easily in excess of 35,000 media options to choose from. Nobody sitting around with a flowchart and a calculator possibly has the speed and mental capacity to work through every investment permutation accurately.

These technologies are good news. If picking channels can be reliably automated, that creates the time to spend on the real job; what will the idea do when it lands in that channel. A media agency is full of people capable of content planning already. Anyone who has mastered how their own social media editing tools work is at least part of the way there.

The woeful process of media agency people asking media sales people for ideas to slap around their media buy (the media RFP) should not be the creative contribution of the media agency. That kills the souls of all involved and happens because of antiquated workflows and the time they soak up. But adopt the things out there that exist to tidy these up and some of the most creative folks in the business should be sitting in a media agency, building working ideas, that tie creativity to outcomes.

If you have been thinking that there must be a way to do media differently, get in touch with us at hello@mediabymother.com

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Media By Mother

An independent creative company delivering business planning and go-to-market execution for today’s media. Visit us: mediabymother.com