Monday, October 18, 2010

What Comes First? Creative or Media?

+ Going back to my Advertising Basics 101, I was taught that the idea came first. The creative concept always came before media. How could you buy ad space if you didn't know what you were going to put in it? What if the concept tied to a specific kind of media? How can you buy that if you don't know what the idea is? What if it doesn't even need paid media?

But, unfortunately in the digital space, too often it's the media plan that is required to be done before the creative has even been briefed or kicked off. But why? It's an answer I'm having trouble finding. According to this article, it claims that the reason for it was the "wild west"...with little standardization in ad units.
As Internet advertising grew in popularity and real campaigns came online, agencies struggled with media planning turned on its head: instead of the ad concept and creative coming first for which the media buyer had to only locate placements, the lack of standards meant the media plan almost had to be developed before creative development could be started.
Ok, fair enough. But in 2002, the IAB helped provide standardized ad units. It's now nearly 2011. So, why is this still so prevalent?

Well if you look at this chart below which shows a very typical digital process overview, you can see that the media plan comes before the creative brief in the work flow. It happens before any "ideas" are supposed to be created and at the same time a budget is being figured out for the project. (That is also strange to can you scope a project when you don't know what you're going to be creating?)
(Chart found here)

Perhaps it's because approximately 75% of a advertising budget is allocated to the media buy instead of the creative execution. And for the most part, that's considered OK. But, how do you build ground-breaking ideas with 25% of the budget? Sure, there's being as creative as possible, but what about the cost of execution? There are some that say that production budgets on average should not exceed 10% of the paid-media. Another stat I found states "three to six dollars is spent on the media buy for every dollar spent on production." So, let's see...your client spends $100,000 on media for a campaign which would leave $10,000 for production. So, that doesn't leave much for bringing an idea to life. Maybe you'd get one banner ad with resizing...possibly with a landing page. Good idea dead. Impact dead. Creativity dead.

Why do we continue down this path? Part of it is the archaic perception that digital is cheaper. It might have been back in the day when there weren't real agencies doing the work and you had a handful of cutting-edge tech focus folks in a start-up company that were jumping on a new channel. But now, over a decade later, we're still acting in the same way, when we should be modifying and growing our business to better suit the needs of our clients. We should be making them understand the value of good production and proving its tie to the ideas we need to bring to life. This is especially as digital starts to encompass more video and leverage the latest technologies to bring the ideas to life (including the need for tech discovery), rather than just allocating percentages of budget to the media buy.

In fact, a study by comScore ARS has shown that creative quality drives more than half of the sales changes for brands analyzed, four times higher than the impact of the specific media plan involved. But how can you do that if you're hamstrung by a piddly budget? You can't.

I'm not the first to post on this topic. Rick Webb over at Barbarian Group wrote Banners - The Media, Creative Scism and Media Planning(the first post on the page). Both of his pieces were written 1.5 - 2 years ago. And yet, I still see the same things. We have not evolved the situation. We are not building a "better mousetrap". Sure, some poeple are, but in the grand scheme of things we continue to trap the big idea in budgets, politics and old(ish) habits.

In an ideal world, the idea comes first...then the media and executions.

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