25 September 2007

New Next: It's not business as usual

Here's the October New Next. It's not up on Mediapost yet so I'm posting the text of the draft I submitted - I don't think too much has changed, except they removed the link for the Connection Planning Conference. I'm not sure why, because people who read this and find our discipline remotely interesting might want to know where to go for more information (instead of having to go through the extra step of Googling it).

This month's article was born out of and built around the section I underlined below. I wrote that part first; it was inspired by someone I spoke with briefly at Likemind last month. I can't remember his name, but he is studying copywriting at a portfolio school and asked me about job hunting in New York. He was finding it very competitive and said something like "But it must be easier for you strategists, right? I mean, all you guys do is do research and report it back to us." I politely tried to explain what it was that we actually do, but inside I was seething. I was so furious by the time I got to Naked that I immediately wrote that paragraph and structured my entire column around it. The whole thing really worried me. There are only a few ad schools out there, and if this is what some of them are teaching their students - the supposed young minds that will some day run our industry - how are things ever going to change?

Anyway, here you go guys. My frustration yielded this column, so I guess I should thank that guy I met and spoke with at Likemind.

"Last month I wrote about how exciting and dynamic our industry is right now. Much of the excitement is due to the rapid blurring of lines within the field of communications. Lines and silos are disappearing and titles are vanishing. Those who are realizing this change aren't drawing distinctions or referring to the people they work with as Suits and Creatives anymore. The fields of account and media planning are merging with creativity and moving into a new, more strategic and smarter direction.

Account planning as we once knew it isn’t enough. It needs more than the traditional process of doing research, unearthing an insight and reporting it to a creative team in the form of a one page brief. Media planning needs a change as well: it's becoming increasingly difficult to rely on mathematic projections that are based on old assumptions of behavior.
Media and people's environments are constantly evolving, and therefore so are the ways they interact with their surroundings. It's easy to use statistical data to justify expenditures, but it's getting harder to feel safe about using outdated algorithms that might be unrepresentative of today's reality of ever-changing media consumption.

Somewhere along the line, people realized that the model was broken. They got forward-thinking minds from various disciplines together and started to work with each other's strengths to form communications planning. They don't just focus on people and media; they observe the relationships between people and media as they interact with each other. For instance, communications planners realize that people behave differently with an opt-in e-mail than they do with a television commercial, a pod cast, a piece of direct mail or a billboard. A single brand message cannot be slapped onto each of these media channels and be expected to reach people in the same way. Three or four years ago, everyone was talking about Integrated Marketing Communications; that isn't enough either anymore. It's about adapting brand messages to work together seamlessly and reach people in the most strategic way possible, throughout the different stages of their journey with your brand.

Whether they call this new discipline communications planning, connection planning, creative media planning or anything else, people are taking notice and actually starting to do something about it. October 26th will mark the first Connection Planning Conference in New Orleans. Framed as a polygamous wedding (www.polygamousweddings.com), it plans to celebrate the marriage of the Planning, Media and Creative disciplines that lead to smarter and more strategic communications. Following in the same vein, the conference will draw visionary thinkers from a range of communications backgrounds – ad agency partners, planning directors, heads of media, independent consultants and writers – rather than only appealing to people from a single discipline and preaching to the choir.

What appears to be a great example of fresh thinking in this direction lies in what was one of the biggest movie events of the summer: The Simpsons Movie. Everyone from newbies to decades-old fans was able to interact with the brand from a variety of different touch points. In addition to one-way media channels like billboards and trailers, people could take an interactive tour of Springfield’s landmarks on the film’s web site. They were able to experience the brand in person when 7Eleven converted stores all around the country into Kwik-E-Marts (complete with branded uniforms and merchandise). The “Simpsonizer” added a viral personalization element by allowing fans to make a Simpsons character in their likeness to post online and pass around to friends. The movie’s campaign not only understood where its fans were spending their time, but also how they behaved with and consumed different media channels. The movie ended up grossing over $74 million during its opening weekend, putting The Simpsons Movie in the top five selling films of the summer.

The success of this and other such campaigns will hopefully serve as an example of how to effectively speak to consumers at a time when the communications lines are blurring more and more. This joining together of disciplines will succeed in pushing the discipline further, encouraging the proliferation of smarter communications and helping to move businesses into the future."
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