The "rebundling" of creative and media is one of the big themes of our industry right now.
The argument I hear the most is that personalised marketing demands much closer integration between those making the ads and those placing the ads, as Campaign’s Gideon Spanier has recently written.
Without doubt, campaigns perform much better when the gaps are closed between a creative team and the media buyers.
In our experience, the live feedback loop that informs changes to campaign creative on the fly can make an ad perform up to three times better.
Of course, if you regularly travel abroad on business, an ad for an airline or a credit card that makes reference to your travel habits cut through better.
But it’s not really the kind of experience that will build long-term brand equity or first-choice preference.
To focus on this executional end of the process is to miss the greater part of the opportunity.
Let’s face it, this data-driven personalisation bit is going to be done by machines in the future anyway.
In some instances, it already is – look at Google automatically adding extensions to your ads to improve performance or Facebook upscaling creative to its Stories formats.
Long-term brand-building, not just short-term performance
The real advantage in integrating media and creative comes from all members of the team having a shared understanding of the audiences, their behaviour and, crucially, the communications strategy for the campaign.
Before you even start developing a creative route or a media plan, you need to have everyone on the same page of the strategy. In today’s world, that rarely happens.
The problem with the current model is that clients end up having a creative agency planner giving them its view of the world to basically justify the creative that the agency wants to make.
At the same time, the media agency planner is putting forward a different strategy, which is simply to justify the media plan it has already written.
Sure, the planners play nicely with one another and make the right noises in front of the client, but back in their own agency the teams carry on doing what they want to do.
Sadly, the "not born here" mentality of disliking an idea unless it's your own is alive and kicking in adland – and this applies just as much, if not more so, to the cross-holding company single-client teams, from what I hear.
If you have a neutral and unified strategy in place first, then creative and media teams can go about their respective specialisms effectively and everyone knows how it will fit together from the start.
Moreover, independent strategic thinking – that is not tied to a particular discipline and has no vested interests – will also give you an even wider approach. Making and placing ads isn’t the only way to drive brand growth.
And if it is advertising you are concerned with, you must focus on getting your teams to think and act differently.
I was delighted to overhear a creative director in our agency say recently: "I don’t even want to start getting ideas on this brief until we’ve agreed as a team where this work is going to live." Hallelujah.
So, if we are about to enter a new phase of media and creative integration, let’s make sure we understand where the greatest opportunities lie.
Let’s not get caught up in executional micro detail. Let’s unify thinking around the big growth levers of brand, customer experience and creativity to build that all-important long-term brand equity and first-choice preference.
The next generation of integrated media and creative has to be about more than pumping slightly more tailored ads down pipes to devices.
Ed Cox is founder of Yonder Media