Over the years, we’ve been commissioned to complete projects that are wide ranging cross sections of media planning, buying, reporting, and accountability/governance audits (we prefer to call them reviews) on behalf of both large and small advertisers.

It never ceases to surprise us that media strategy, or as most media agencies now often erroneously refer to them as “communications planning”, usually isn’t compelling at all; and it simply isn’t what it should be or what it can be.

Strategic planning should be a key differentiator and a clear delineator for media agencies. The reality is that planning outcomes are a first step indicator and driver of the agency’s fundamental ability to understand, create and deliver relevant solutions that will address the client’s business need. So why is it that more time, effort and focus is spent on the metrics and measures of the implementation process?

Unless the strategy is clear and compelling, then almost everything else involved in the subsequent lengthy implementation and leverage process becomes almost meaningless.

How often have we seen lengthy, nicely worded and graphically picturesque strategic recommendation presentations only to see many of them looking the same with “television expressions as the brand awareness medium” combined with “digital extensions providing acquisition or participation” (online display, search and social or mobile forms). As a strategic framework it’s all too simplistic and disappointing that not a lot of innovation and new thinking is being seen.

Most agencies claim to do what used to be called consumer-centric planning; most have clear planning processes; and some genuinely follow those formats; but there are also those who blindly follow them only to result in plans which tend to look very much alike.

There are also quite a few that adapt or create fluidly, and whilst we don’t advocate a firm adherence to a universal planning approach (because there is no holy grail with each advertiser’s tasks and goals being entirely different), there’s still a fundamental need for relevant and timely research, segmentation, insights, ideas, innovation, creativity and activation that must be embraced.

As simple as it sounds, it still surprises us that various opportunities are not embraced to optimise media chords that can complement the creative idea and execution. Many claim to collaborate and in fact are seen to do so, but it sadly seems that many are far too silo-specialised, overly self-focused or simply insufficiently experienced to appreciate that media and creative must work in together to achieve effective communications results.

The separation of media and creative services happened many years ago; it’s shortcomings and benefits are well documented, and whilst many agencies profess to have developed new age working models, it’s still sadly not as robust. Why? It’s because today’s comtemporary media folk simply don’t have the experience or first hand appreciation of creative ideation and executional development.

Broader experience should engender an innate knowledge that recognises how essential it is to define how the brand should be seen, felt and known by the target group, not just how to reach them or know when or where to contact them. Communications is about connections and a strategist should ultimately be able to visualise the problem+solution for customers and what they want customers to do after consuming creative content. Mostly for purist reasons, but maybe also because of that experience gap with the broader communications development process it simply doesn’t seem to be regarded as important.

I was fortunate to experience working in a full service agency in my early days working along some very notable creatives. It gave me a huge appreciation of the power of ideas. And even though I still only had five minute remnant time at the end of the full campaign presentation, it was sufficient to be able to gestate a broad approach to the media strategy that would compliment the creative strategy and revert later with a greater drill down presentation. You simply don’t get that these days with death by powerpoint.

Of course most of that is redundant in these days of the always on connected consumers and the wide miasma of media channels and options available. And of course the role of the channel strategist has moved upstream but the ‘complimentary’ nature of context, contact and content integration hasn’t.

There’s never been a greater need for planning that starts with the consumer.

Have you wondered why creative agencies have been the big winners in the media category at the Cannes Awards for the past three or four years? And most media agencies haven’t been within earshot?

It’s not for the stilted reason that creative agencies invest more time writing better submissions.

Maybe an increased investment and focus on strategic client based solutions will make a difference?

Allan Medforth print resAllan Medforth is a Partner at Kinesis Media and a Legends & Leaders mentor in the Media module.

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