Remember Integrated Planning?

Back in the BP era (that’s BP: before programmatic) there was another urgent topic of conversation amongst the media agency elite. This was how to deliver and measure integrated campaigns – a topic based around delivering to client needs, a rather quaint concept given the current focus on improving margins via a lack of transparency in trading.

The great thing about integrated planning was (still is) that it’s all about understanding how real people use media forms. Believe it or not, not everyone spends their whole lives accessing media forms created for one channel via an alternative. I am told that there are pockets of savages roaming our streets who still believe that printed newspapers or magazines are best experienced in a printed format. There are even believed to be tribes out there that really can’t be bothered to access TV content via a laptop, tablet or mobile, holding stubbornly to the belief that it’s more fun to watch TV on the TV.

This is not to say that these digital forms don’t have their place (even I have been known to follow the cricket, or the hacking trial on my phone, especially during conference papers extolling the virtues of big data), but things have come to a sorry pass when everyone believes the media salesman. Time was when these people were taken with a huge slab of salt; now even daring to suggest that they might perhaps be slightly over-selling their proposition leads to ridicule and accusations of being out-of-touch.

I still treasure the moment when a discussion I was having with one agency’s digital gatekeeper (no, I don’t know either) on how advertising works (paid search is the answer to everything, in case you were wondering) ended with the words ‘we’re the digital generation; we just know this stuff’. John Hegarty’s description (‘the digital Taliban’) was spot on.

Anyway, back in the real world people watch TV on a TV set; they read newspapers and magazines in print; they go to the cinema (hang on, wasn’t that supposed to have died when VCR’s and DVD’s came along?); they listen to the radio; they notice poster sites. And yes, they use Spotify; they value social media and search; they read online magazines; they play games; they read emails; they access apps and they use their mobiles/tablets to keep up to date with the stuff that matters to them.

This how the people advertisers wish to reach, and influence in whatever way, behave. In just the same way that multi-media campaigns using, as an example TV and magazines were a good idea way back when, so it is today. Multi-media brings huge benefits, not least the opportunity to add light and shade to a message, as the message itself takes on different hues dependent upon the medium in which it appears.

This is also why high quality advertiser paid-for content is so valuable (and has been for years; I speak as the guy who has claims on being the first to ‘do it’ on TV in the UK in the early 1990’s). The message becomes chameleon-like, it takes on the form of the editorial (in the broadest sense) in which it appears.

I’ve never understood why creative agencies haven’t jumped on this notion before. After all a columnist who changes from one newspaper to another changes the tone of the message to fit the audience he or she is writing for; yet we seem to stick with the idea (to take one example) that one print message must fit all (the old excuse, production costs, really isn’t relevant any more).

Understanding combinations of media forms, not just how many people consume them but what they consume them for, how, when and where they consume them, what they value in them and how they respond to them (beyond clicks or even coupons) is of a different scale of relevance to advertisers than digital trading.

I would argue that it’s a better strategy for an agency to spend its time and resource designing something of relevance that will pay dividends for years to come, helping advertisers build their businesses, rather than putting so much effort into creating trading mechanics that deliver bigger margins in the short-term by pulling the wool over clients’ eyes.

Such an approach would certainly start to address the agencies’ serious perception issue with their clients.