The simplest of formulas
Message + Medium + Moment = Effect
Now is the time to focus on what matters — the clean and clear alignment of message, medium and moment. This article takes a look at this simple formula, a formula that we believe needs to be kept front and centre because that is where effectiveness lives. We’ll also share four things we do to make this formula work for us here at BCM Group.
Simple actions are worth their weight in gold right now, in the face of these crazy complicated times. As an industry we have been pretty good at over-complicating things over the years, especially when it comes to the confusion of the big agency holding groups and unbundling then attempted re-bundling of media and creative.
Julian Cole, a very good strategy consultant if you haven’t come across him, shared a post on LinkedIn last week highlighting the benefits of having media and creative working closely together. Julian’s observation is that in his early years in advertising “the media agency was often seen as the enemy of great work with inflexible plans”. But he goes on to talk about his change in mindset.
This observation was an interesting signal in itself from such a respected Strategist, but it was the support of the engagements and comments off Julian’s post that truly reinforced the position. All were supportive, with views coming from both sides of the fence as well as client side. The benefits of aligning message and media mentioned included:
- More ideas — yes, they can come from anywhere… even media!
- Media can help make an idea stronger (and I would build on this observation by saying creative can make a media plan more relevant)
- Tight alignment and integration of idea to channel leads to greater effectiveness of the campaign.
But there is more to finding that simple formula than just trying to get everyone from the different camps to play nicely together again. We are seeing the rise of new agency models, designed specifically to work in and capitalise on the current environment and deliver to the formula with speed and accuracy.
A quick scan of the major awards this year see some of the more successful shortlisted agencies being of the new breed. Think Che Proximity being shortlisted twice in the media campaign category for the AdNews Awards. And Thinkerbell in the small budget media category in the same awards. Then Thinkerbell and CHEP again being shortlisted 10 times each in the 2020 Mumbrella awards.
These new models are fighting well for share of attention in the minds of marketers. Going back a year and a half, AdNews reported on “The Challenges of the changing agency model”, in which there was a strong discussion around the reintegration of media. A key selling point referenced here was simplification — in this current environment, who wouldn’t want more of that?
Making it simple, then, is a key element to the successful application of the formula. Simplification can be embraced right across the work flow. It could be in the form of one single brief that creative and media work from; it could be in the way work is presented which demonstrates how the idea will work in the actual channel mix recommended, not just a hypothetical mix. It could be in the work itself, in making ideas that are truly fit for channel which people are far more likely to engage with. Working with one single, simple structure and team can go a long way to realising these benefits fully.
There is, of course, a counter point to consider in all this. In the same AdNews article above, reference was also made to some clients preferring separate agency relationships to have friction between their agencies. This was something I came through the ranks hearing as well — referred to as ‘healthy tension’. I do get it to some degree — the idea of having people in the room who will challenge each other without question or restraint can be a good thing. But more often than not it isn’t. Ego’s get in the way, it slows things down and the fight for revenue is always there.
We all have a distinct opportunity, right now, to better align message to the medium and the moment. In fact I would say it is no longer just a nice to have — it is imperative. The people we want to reach on behalf of our clients everyday are getting more sophisticated in the way they choose to engage with or opt out of media. If we wish to survive and thrive as an industry we simply must make every contact count.
So how do we apply the formula to find effectiveness in advertising for our clients?
- Get people who understand brands deeply in the same room as people who understand connection and media deeply. And give them the freedom to talk.
- Have a framework in place that describes the consumer experience, both now and what we desire it to be, to guide thinking. A consumer experience map if you will.
- Share insights and knowledge freely across all people involved — this can come from the client team, media team, from focus groups, from media owners. Anywhere.
- Let the idea inspire the channel, and the channel inform the idea. Keep it a two way street and it will only get better and better.
Naturally I am biased here — I work within a full service, independent agency. But I have chosen to work here for a reason. I have experienced the big media agency network, small media start-up and global creative agency first hand. And right now I wouldn’t be anywhere else. Having the ability to always think medium and message in the same breath, to have clear visibility and control over outcomes, and to ultimately deliver on the four points above every day is a good place to be.