Media or Creative first – are we really still having this debate?


When I started in the media industry 12 years ago, the talk at the time was about how media planning should come before creative thinking. It was common talk amongst all media agencies and it had a lot of resonance in a world where media opportunities were exploding with the mass take up of the internet, the proliferation of digital TV and the rise of digital radio (what happened there!?) The difficulty of wading through all the multitude of media options gave real momentum to the claim of the media strategy to be an integral part of the marketing strategy. Within a couple of years it was seen as pretty much conventional wisdom, although there was some reluctance on the part of other advertising services agencies, understandably. But it was pretty well accepted that the context of an advertising message could often be as important as the message itself.

So the article below from Antony Young, would be exactly the type of article I would expect to have been written 10-12 years ago. Except it wasn’t written at any point in the previous decade. It was written last week.

here is the article in full : Six Reasons Media Strategy Should Come Before Creative

I was really quite shocked to be reading something like this in a publication such as AdAge in today’s marketing environment.

Not only did I think that the value of “the medium” had already been well established in our industry, I also thought that we had grown up and moved well beyond any kind of debate which put media before creative or creative before media.

Surely there is general consensus in our industry that what is required is a collaboration between all the key disciplines to ensure that all elements of a marketing campaign work in an integrated and orchestrated way to deliver against marketing and business objectives.

Surely we have moved away from protectionist attitudes such as “my discipline is more important than your discipline” Putting it simply – placing an irrelevant message in perfectly targeted media environment will have no more success than placing a wonderfully crafted message in front of an audience who have no interest in the product. It’s daft to claim that the media is more important than the message, but equally the message shouldn’t ever be developed in isolation of the media options.

I believe (and I thought most of my peers also believed) that the creative approach and the media approach should stem from the same overall communications strategy and should feed and nuture each other in an ongoing, organic, iterative, real time process. Surely the concept of a linear process where you make an ad, you buy some media to distribute the ad and then walk away is something that our industry has walked away from long ago?

But maybe I’ve been deluding myself. If the article above is anything to go by the media industry hasn’t really gone anywhere in the past 12 years.

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2 thoughts on “Media or Creative first – are we really still having this debate?

  1. couldn’t agree more. a cretinous debate – however one that is still really emerging in the US/ APAC where comms planning is still quite a novelty for many brands – which I guess is where mr young is focusing his comments….

    the bottom line is that there is a new brand of upstream cultural and infrastructural thinking, required by all businesses, that combines media and creative (and lots of other things too.) this has to be rooted in a deep understanding of media and technology change, as well as a deep understanding of what brands are. it can be done by any one discipline, or, much better, by harmonious but dynamic groups that come from a variety of companies.

    debate over.

    1. Agreed, but with the qualification that those dynamic groups shouldn’t be too big. I liked your post on what group size is best for which tasks, and part of the problem with integration of comms strategy is that even if you only have one person from each discipline, you end up with an unwieldy group which is to the detriment of the strategy and ideas.

      Hmmm, maybe not as clear cut as I thought.

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