Greater need for creative in media pitches as part of rebundling

Creative solutions are increasingly sneaking into media pitches as the need for further integration continues to grow.

2018: Year of the great rebundling of the unbundled.

Seamless integration between creative and media has never been more necessary than it is today, agencies are stressing.

One byproduct of this reunion is the injection of creative in media pitches. We saw this process followed through late last year when Publicis Media worked with Delta for its "Two Words" campaign in the lead up to holiday season -- proof of a media agency delivering strong creative in a fast, cost-efficient, relevant way. 

So, how are agencies grappling with the great rebundling? Campaign US spoke with six shops to hear their secrets on adapting in this ever-evolving landscape.

Karen Kaplan, chairman and CEO of Hill Holliday

Time and again we at Hill Holliday and Trilia have seen that the focus on creative and media integration leads to the development of unique ideas that drive real business results for our clients. Over the years, some clients have drawn the line in the sand between media and creative, seeing media as only driving two things: efficiencies and reach. Sure, a lot of this had to do with the complex nature of the media landscape and media agencies typically owning the analytics function, but real integration can’t happen when you have two conflicting forces.

The most exceptional media plans -- in a pitch or in an ongoing agency relationship -- make great use of custom partnerships, often involving co-creation with media outlets themselves where a paid media buy may be part of the equation. Are those creative or media ideas? Does it matter? The line is increasingly blurring, and the fact is that clients don’t really care where great ideas come from.

With so much of what media agencies deliver being automated, and somewhat operational in nature, the opportunity lies in the strategic value they bring to the table. Because integration between creative and media is vital for creating ideas that deliver real results, the creative and media agency relationship needs to be closer than ever. There is a value for both in a successful relationship, the secret sauce lies in uncovering how to collaborate and work seamlessly together so the client sees only one agency team.

Laurent Ezekiel, North America president at Digitas

In the last 18 months, we’ve seen an increase in media agencies tapping into creative and digital agencies to fuel content development, distribution, intelligence and consulting (audits and strategy) -- the latter to deliver personalization at scale. Indeed, some agencies, including Publicis Media, wouldn’t consider presenting media without content ideas to support the strategy.

Marrying different content sources like Hollywood storytellers (as opposed to traditional media owners) can also benefit media agencies. The same goes for production companies, producers, directors, talent agencies and studios. As media agencies develop their content offering, they improve the way they use brands as jumping off points for large-scale initiatives.

Dynamic creative optimization techniques have improved significantly; this helps media agencies deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.

Media agencies and clients are increasing the pressure on media owners to tailor content beyond the upfronts.

Amanda Richman, Wavemaker U.S. CEO

As we came together as Wavemaker this past year, the pitch shift we’ve been experiencing (and driving) is one that focuses holistically on client’s business growth.  Yes, media savings will continue to be part of the story, but clients have woken up to the realities of a bottomless pricing pursuit -- you can’t cut your way to growth, nor can you expect partners to bring their best talent and thinking to the table without an opportunity to share in success.

Where does creative fit into this? Media, creative, data, tech are seamless components in driving business growth. As a media agency, we are closest to consumer behaviors and resulting data in the vast media marketplace, which fuels insights that inspire creativity and business solutions -- but whether those solutions are built within our agency, or in partnership with clients’ existing creative agencies, data sources or tech stack partners, our role is to navigate the complexity with a holistic view.

The best creative agencies are leaning in to partner with media agencies like ourselves, creating new ways of working that are more inclusive of our marketplace insights, leveraging our data to form solutions that go beyond a ‘big idea.’ We’ve moved beyond the battle of ‘who owns planning’ or ‘who owns the consumer.’  Whomever can own up to their strengths and limitations, put the client’s needs at the center, and work with urgency and fluidity to grow their business, reaps the rewards.

Greg March, co-founder and CEO of Noble People

What we’re seeing is a recognition that neither media nor creative strategy can be extracted from one another. I think the best marketers expect a POV on creative things from their media agency, like what kinds of messages live where, and when, and why.

If it’s a media-led pitch, there’s not much expectation that they’d want us to craft the brand message, and we’re not in that business. But it’s always better to go into the pitch with a POV on it.

Even though doing the world’s best media and creative is so nuanced as to require bespoke service businesses, a client's customer doesn’t see the marketing in those pieces. So the agencies involved can’t be so far up their own asses that they lose  sight of how their work is experienced and fail to sell more of their clients product or services.

So I’m glad we’re seeing some clients are asking for a creative perspective, and we’re always happy to give smart ones (and not even charge for it).

Eric Levin, chief content officer at Spark Foundry


From our perspective, we are seeing the integration of creative and media in a very purposeful way. We’re being exceptionally direct about our approach to incorporate creative into media pitches.

We’ve done this for a few reasons: one -- there’s a better way to do creative and we feel media (and the content practice) can and should be leading this conversation; two -- clients are very directly asking for better/more efficient and targeted creative solutions, which we can provide and; three -- we all need to evolve our approach if we’re going to stay relevant and in touch with our consumers. Marketers are demanding a change in how we approach creative, and we’re listening.

The result is better return on investment, better stories, more connected ecosystem, highly targeted and meaningful engagement -- the list goes on. We truly feel that this is an evolution of what creativity needs to be, and we firmly believe we’re at the forefront of the next creative revolution.

David Tucker, head of strategy at SwellShark

From what I've seen, clients want to see that a media agency can think creatively, but the more important test of late is collaboration and teamwork with creative agencies.

I was speaking with our insurance brand's creative agency the other day, and we were talking at length about how it all feels like a see-saw now that media and creative had been pulled apart so much.

Clients want media that can flex their creative muscle, but more importantly they are looking to assemble effective interagency teams. That's why they rely so much on referrals from existing agencies they trust, and often invite them to sit in on part or all of the pitch process.

Adam Potashnick, chief growth officer at MediaCom

We are definitely not creating :30 second ads nor are we going head-to-head against creative agencies in pitches. Yet media is creative in almost everything it touches whether that be in content, innovation, integrations or more.

Our way of working at MediaCom is collaborative and consistent, always seeking the right balance to create ideas that get consumers talking about client brands. Our ideas are sometimes exclusively digital-based or can be tied to content, social, experiential or OOH. We don’t put a cap on what is possible. Creative thinking and innovation benefits all.

Addie Conner, partner and chief innovation officer at Decoded


Separating creative and media is old-school thinking and shows the antiquated nature of the agency world. Creative needs media, and media needs creative. Thinking about the creative separate from distribution perpetuates artificial silos that serve no one.

Creative is showing up in media pitches because it’s the only lever we have left for optimization. The traditional levers media agencies use to optimize have all been commoditized by platforms like Facebook and Google so creative is the last frontier.

Creative is now 75 percent of the media optimization opportunity, but the one that is the least understood. That’s why we built Decoded Advertising. The ability to influence creative with a data feedback loop that comes from media gives our team an edge to make both the creative and media more successful than ever before.

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


The latest work, news, advice, comment and analysis, sent to you every day

register free