The appeal is free media … the power is in great ideas

Creative and Media share a laugh

The media departments at agencies and inside the brands always considered themselves the rain makers.  They had bigger (like 10 times bigger) budgets than the creative group. The CEOs knew them by fun nicknames and could often be found lounging around media’s cubicles, laughing, cup o’ joe in hand, ala Office Space.   Creative and media would have the annual “we matter most” argument  which would end when media whipped out their spending.

Recently, Bill Harvey, an icon in the broadcast media world (I think he invented DMAs or maybe it was penicillin) issued a blogbuster that asserted creative mattered way more.  (

In fact, Bill clearly states, “Great creative matters, and it matters more than anything else – more than everything else combined.”  And that’s the media guru talking here.

What is turning the tide on this debate are 2 transformations:  first is the commoditization of the media buy. Not media … the buy.  No doubt smart media channels continue to position and set themselves apart.  If you’re a 23 year old woman who Twitters and is busy on social networks, TMZ is likely a solid media buy to attract your attention.  But discovering this and actually buying TMZ has become an act similar to those suits in that high-tech concrete building in Quantico who shoot down Jeeps in the desert with their deadly video game controls.  It’s pre-packaged, automated, and detached.

TRA, an ROI-based, precision data-driven baby Nielsen, is introducing a widget called the “Optimizer.” Billed as a powerful broadcast media planning tool, it’s actually a piece of software that could, given the right training, allow brands and clients to plan and buy their own media with the push of a laser-guided button.

The other media transformation is the viral or word of mouth function.  This was always the last item on the idea list for launching a new product.  “OK, we’ve got TV broadcast, coupons in the sups, local sports radio, print in the verticals, direct mail and, ahhhh … something else, oh yeah, word of mouth.  Bob, who’s on the WOM for this?  The new guy?  Cool.”

WOM – or viral in the connected, digital world – is quickly becoming King.  The recession with its non-existent budgets is fueling some of this, of course.  Cost savings aside, there’s no higher conversion scenario than to have a satisfied customer tell her trusted friend about your product.  Direct mail gets about a 2% conversion.  Print a bit less.  Telemarketing sometimes 25-30%.  Broadcast TV some ridonculous fraction.  But when a word of mouth interaction happens, the conversion is well north of 50%.  If you want it  and your guinea pig friend has already tried it with much happiness at the end, you’ll buy.

We’re trying to educate clients to this opportunity.  Some clients need to show that their sales needle has moved just days after dropping their coupons.  By virtue of their performance evaluations, they will be slow to adopt. Others are not so hamstrung and are on the forefront of this new methodology.  B-to-B clients are especially interested as the long-dreaded gate-keeper outside the CEO’s door has been by-passed – not by tricky Fed Ex boxes – but by the entertaining and informative ones and zeroes on their computer and mobile screens.

The key to energizing and giving velocity to this new media reality is the big idea.  The right creative, well executed. WILL get watched and WILL get passed around with the worth-its-weight-in-gold notation:  “Joe, you’ve got to see this.”

Creative wins.  As it should.  I mean, do you know what media guys do for fun?  Me neither.

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