Shades of Grey

Writing a blog exposes you to all sorts of reactions – from complimentary through well-informed criticism and on to rude. Fortunately, by far the majority of people who respond to me aren’t rude; we may not agree but at least we can be civil about disagreeing.

One accusation that does emerge from time to time is that ‘people like me’ (I think they mean old farts) somehow hate all online media forms. That I want to turn the clock back to simpler days when plans and buys were constructed over pints of warm English ale, preferably on a village green on which a cricket match was in progress.

Planning, then and now has always been about picking the right ingredients, in appropriate quantities to ensure that the end result works for the client. To do this well any planner needs to appreciate the pros and cons of all available communication channels.

So, yes of course there is a vital role that can be played by online media forms. It’s as much rubbish to say that online never works (whatever that means) as it is to say that no-one ever watches TV or reads a printed magazine these days.

In the minds of the consumers we are all trying to reach and whose behaviours we seek to influence this digital/non-digital debate is absurd. Real people use all media forms as and when they need them.

The planner’s job is to understand the what, the when, the where and the why and to use each media form accordingly.

It is not the planner’s job to justify his or her decisions and recommendations to their traders; rather it is the traders’ job to buy the plan.

To do it the other way around diminishes and disrespects the skill of the planner.

How we use the media these days is something we’re in danger of forgetting how to do, preferring the simplicity of adapting an execution designed for one medium on to another. We should be doing more to address how best to work with others to create something appropriate for all selected channels.

This takes time, is complicated but is also very necessary. Anything that brings media and creativity closer together is a good thing, so the Havas single P&L idea, along with their move into a single physical hub deserves credit.

Combinations of media forms generally work best, assuming a decent weight in each is affordable – as has always been the case. The fact that there is more choice and complexity doesn’t change this simple truth.

It follows that collaboration in all things is essential. It’s lazy to think in vertical terms, medium to medium, as in ‘mine’s bigger and better than yours’. Or as in ‘here’s a TV execution, adapt it for Facebook’. It’s never black and white, it’s always shades of grey.

Planners put the consumer at the centre of their thinking, and move on from there.

Just like they’ve always done.


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