It’s the Message Stupid
Published B&T – Oct 2017
A twist on a famous campaign quote used by Bill Clinton – “It’s the Economy Stupid”. (For the trivia buffs it was coined by James Carville, his campaign strategist. Politicians rarely come up with the good ones). Reading Monday’s Australian Media and Marketing section, Peta Credlin, used almost the same wording when referring to the Coalition Government’s use of all available media options.
Politics learned their approach to communications from marketers. (They are “selling”, after all). Her point was that with the diverse media landscape, effort must be put into everything be it TV, radio, press, online, social – but the best media mix won’t save you if your message doesn’t work.
So, although much has changed on the media front, quality and continuity of message are still the most important considerations and are the difference between success and failure in the polls.
Creative used to be the sharp end of the advertising spear, but media is where the action is today. So much time, effort and money (to be fair, media is by far the largest chunk of an advertiser’s budget) goes into media, particularly digital, that the message is all but overlooked, an after- thought.
Even though 90% plus of an advertiser’s budget has always gone into media, it was viewed simply as the platform to carry the all-important message. Of course, it was important, but all this money was being spent to carry messages that built the brand and generated sales.
When creative and media were separated, I doubt at the time anyone could look in a crystal ball and predict the media landscape as it is today. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Now the Barbarians are at the gates and people and business are shifting to Advisory and Management Consulting firms. The Big 8 then 6 and now 4 Chartered Accounting firms have been slowly increasing their suite of services since they all first started. Now they call themselves Advisory Firms – accounting and marketing/advertising didn’t seem to sit well together.
Agencies have lost the sum of the parts advantage of having media and creative under the same roof. We have forgotten the most basic of equations:
Media + Message = Advertising.
As more and more dollars shift online, the sheer volume of inventory of online media has necessitated programmatic planning and buying. One small problem with this – according to the Chief Brand Officer of the world’s biggest advertiser, Proctor & Gamble, only about 25% of digital advertising is seen by consumers. (The rest ends up in bots, scams, porn and extremist websites – anywhere but in front of the target market).
John Wanamaker (1838-1922), who pioneered fixed prices and money back guarantees, once famously said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, trouble is I don’t know which half.” And here we are 100 years later, with technology coming out our, um, well you know and now that 50% has dropped to 25%.
The basics don’t change – highly effective communications are not just what you say, but how you say it. There are so many different platforms/conduits to the consumer now, the message must be tailored to best suit the nuances of each. Integration is a mandatory – very few (if any) products/services can effectively reach their target using just one platform.
But media and creative have become two separate businesses. “Divide and conquer”, the saying goes. Well, we have divided ourselves.
A report from this year’s annual Cannes advertising conference stated that all the waterfront hotels and action on the super yachts was monopolised by the Martech and digital ad businesses, whilst creative agencies were relegated to accommodation in the backblocks, away from the glamorous waterfront.
The message, the heart of advertising, has lost its primacy. It is much more than just the message though, it is how you say it – the creative execution. The barbarians have never been overly creative or artistic. (And neither is AI).