Buyers: Your time is up

Strategy launching a new publication called MEDIA is a bit like Ford launching a new four-wheeled motorized vehicle called CAR. Or Kellogg launching a new box of cardboard crispy bits called CEREAL.
But this is media about media, and it's a big wide field, covering everything from product immersion in movies (p. 1), to media creativity (p. 11), to recency planning (p. 20). In fact, there's so much going on, so many different ways to come at what is undoubtedly the most important invention in the history of Western civilization, that it's hard to know where to draw the line.

Strategy launching a new publication called MEDIA is a bit like Ford launching a new four-wheeled motorized vehicle called CAR. Or Kellogg launching a new box of cardboard crispy bits called CEREAL.

But this is media about media, and it’s a big wide field, covering everything from product immersion in movies (p. 1), to media creativity (p. 11), to recency planning (p. 20). In fact, there’s so much going on, so many different ways to come at what is undoubtedly the most important invention in the history of Western civilization, that it’s hard to know where to draw the line.

In essence, media is any vehicle for mass communication, plain and simple. Buying an ad on TV – well that’s the media we all know and love. But how about creeping into the central square of a European city in the middle of the night and building what looks like a Russian submarine surfacing though the concrete, complete with actors as sailors running around asking people where they are? Is that media? Sure it is – it’s mass communication – and, in fact, may even help define the future of media.

Just ask Martin Thomas, worldwide total communications director at the London, U.K. office of Mediaedge:cia. In the past he’s cited that very example to show how creative you have to be in today’s cluttery environment.

On p. 26 of this issue, Thomas tackles a different subject: How the media operation as we know it is reaching an important crossroads. If the right path is chosen, he says, the media community could lead the whole marketing field into a shiny new future. But only if that opportunity is seized by forward thinking leaders who staff their agencies with cognitive neuroscience specialists and other unorthodox types.

Thomas knows of what he speaks, because in Europe, they’re a little further down the path. Kevin Malloy, Chicago-based CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group International, was in Toronto recently to explain why he parachuted in the former managing director of Starcom Greater China to take over Canada’s MediaVest office in Toronto (see p. 5), and he confirmed it: Don’t look to the States he said (being uncharacteristically humble for a U.S.-based executive); they’re not leading the way. Look at what’s happening in Europe.

Buying media space is still a core function of today’s media operations, he added, but it’s the media operation’s ability to understand the consumer, think creatively and come up with whole new methods of mass communication that will allow companies to scale the possibilities to the big-picture vistas.

In other words, buyers: your time is up – it’s the researchers and planners who will be tomorrow’s stars.

Now if I were head of buying for some big Toronto agency, I might take issue with that statement. I might feel that this new emphasis on crazy new media placements, trendy new psychographic research techniques and converged media buys is all overblown hype.

After all, while there are many examples of wild and wacky new media plans, they tend to be small-scale niche buys that pale in effectiveness compared to good old-fashioned multi-million-dollar broadcast TV. (If you feel that way, let me know, and you can have your say in this space next issue.)

These are the sorts of issues we want to tackle in MEDIA, and there seems to be plenty of fodder for discussion. For instance:

* In Canada, the total media spend is about a third as much per capita as it is in the U.S. – what’s up with that?

* SMG’s Malloy confirmed that the main reason media holding groups operate more that one ‘brand’ in a given region is to manage client conflicts – but he’s noticing that clients are becoming less averse to conflicts than they were. How will this change the global playing field?

* Finally, why are so many media planners still blowing their budgets on high-frequency 18-week buys that torture a tiny segment of the target demo with tiresome repetition until they swear off the client’s product for life?

Such issues will affect the future of not only media planning and buying, but media itself over the coming years. If you want some answers, read on – and look to future issues of Strategy MEDIA.

Duncan Hood

Editor, MEDIA

dhood@brunico.com