28 March 2023

Pulling apart creation and media is our industry's greatest sin

In today’s society, it’s undeniable that media plays a significant role. We are bombarded with an overwhelming number of messages and notifications, as screens are omnipresent. Instead of acknowledging our loved ones first thing in the morning, many of us tend to check our phones.

So, it’s not surprising that consumers nowadays consciously and unconsciously build a filter against all these expressions. The consumer has never been so reachable, but also never been so difficult to reach.

In 2019, Nick Law delivered the opening keynote at the Cannes Lions Festival. In the first few minutes of his passionate speech, he hit the nail on the head, in my opinion, by stating that ‘the separation of creative and media is the greatest sin of our industry’.

Decades ago, when our industry made the decision to separate creation and media and provide each with its own front door, it did not pose any issues for the effectiveness of campaigns. Creatives at Advertising agencies had ample knowledge of the channels. Planners at Media agencies were able to offer relevant advice on the limited resource mix available. One could say that everything was going smoothly at that time.

Fast forward to today, and we seem to have forgotten that creative and media were once a harmonious partnership. Over time, we have grown so distant from each other that we only communicate through a mediator – the client. Due to this separation, clients choose to brief both parties separately and provide them with individual budgets. In some cases, clients even intentionally keep the two parties entirely apart. Have we stopped to consider how absurd this situation is?

It is like giving an architect and a construction company an assignment separately. The construction company then procures the most efficient materials. The architect makes a unique design, and when construction starts, we just hope that everything kind of fits together. What kind of building do you think will come out of that?

Relationship therapy in three steps

How do we end this bizarre relationship in our industry? Fortunately, at Total Design, we went into relationship therapy a few years ago. Out of this came 3 tips that can greatly improve your relationship.

1. One team, one task

Clients must realize that media and creation are yin and yang and cannot exist without each other. Therefore, at the kick-off of a project, make sure you sit down with all three parties right away. Give one briefing and make sure there is a common goal and responsibility.

2. You only know half (or less)

Both are experts in their own fields but also have a knack for getting stuck in their own truths. Believe in each other’s strengths and let each other’s insights sharpen your plans.

At advertising agencies, it has become increasingly difficult (read: impossible) for creatives to keep up with all the developments in terms of media. Therefore, before you start concept development, listen to your media agency. Be informed about the latest developments. Are there relevant new opportunities or uses that can inspire creatives?

At media agencies, the dominance of data is becoming a danger to thinking outside the box. With the glut of data, we can extract from campaigns these days, we are increasingly losing ourselves in calculating reach figures and benchmarks. But also realize that this is the lower limit through which a campaign must not fall. To run truly impactful campaigns, the door must be open for campaigns that fall outside Excel sheets. Also, have confidence in an ad agency’s expertise if they feel the concept would be better in another medium.

3. Speak from the mouth, eat from one hand

In addition to choosing a joint brief, we also need to stop presenting our plans separately. There is no media plan or idea first. There is the best solution to the client’s request. Therein, the concept and media are fully aligned.

In doing so, we must also move away from setting budgets for media and creation in advance. There should not be an 80/20 or 70/30 ratio. There should be one budget that solves a client’s business problem. Let the media and advertising agency present what ratio will bring the most impact.

If we can make these three steps, I strongly believe we can undo this sin of our industry. Not only that; I think this is the only way to get out of the level of mediocre work, both creatively and effectively.

Author: Joppe Andriessen, Head of Team Campaigns
Image: Copyright/Created by Midjourney