we’re going digital

Should campaigns be media-driven or idea-driven?

Lately, it feels like the media tail is wagging the campaign dog. Many campaigns are built around a media platform, as if the media platform alone was the big idea. Most of the Foursquare campaigns I see feel like that.

Sometimes marketers forget that media platforms are enablers to big ideas. They aren’t the big ideas themselves.

The media channels developing today are creating an unparalleled opportunity for marketers. As a result, P&G, the world’s largest advertiser, is famously shifting media wholesale from TV to digital. Marc Pritchard, head marketer at P&G, recently said, “This is probably the most profound time of change that has occurred in brand building since the end of the Second World War when mass marketing really took off.”

As marketers worldwide make similar shifts, it’s important to remember that going digital is not a campaign strategy. Neither is a checklist of every available flavor of new media.

Instead, a campaign strategy is built on big ideas that take advantage of the best media channels to bring those ideas to life.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post. I’ll pick one comment by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)

  1. Hugh Griffiths says

    Again, a very insightful cartoon that sums up so much of what’s wrong with digital marketing in some arenas.

    I would completely agree that media platforms are enablers of ideas and so the “media tail wagging the campaign dog” should never happen. However, I think there is an additional nuance worth considering:

    Marshall McLuhan famously said that “the medium is the message” and, in this context, thinking about the particular qualities or strengths of an individual media platform can drive creative and innovative ideas. In this sense, sometimes the media platform can come before the big idea. For example, Pinterest is starting to trigger marketing use in some interesting ways even though Pinterest itself is the new idea being played out.

  2. Mike Williams says

    I get more frustrated by the things people call ‘big’ ideas rather than knee-jerk channel thinking. Today’s overheard big idea was a online menu in the shape of diamond to represent all the facets of luxury. Lord, let’s just do a Facebook page.

  3. Sandy Adam says

    Absolutely agree Tom. And, Hugh has a wonderful point. Understanding the channels and their pros and cons can add value to the upfront campaign planning.

  4. Pamela Campagna says

    Thanks for the spark. I’m in complete agreement. The media is the delivery vehicle for the message/idea and not the message/idea in and of itself (unless, of course, your message/idea IS media).

  5. Ashley C says

    The one word that is missing for me from your cartoon and your first line of commentary is RELATIONSHIP. Perhaps it is time for marketers and creatives to start asking not “should” the idea be driven by media and ideas or “what” are we going to do with these channels, but “HOW” are we going to engage consumers and build deeper relationships with them? While social media/marketing is still in its infancy, there have been some good lessons learned over the years (aside from how to manage privacy more efficiently). Engaging consumers with the brand instead of telling them what the brand stands for and how it’ll make their lives better is what consumers are looking for – I’d like to believe. Done are the days of telling them that “it’s strong enough for a man, but made for a woman” and it’s “the best a man can get” – with their permission, let’s start living with them and engaging with them, and deepening our experience with them. I’m still stumped to this day that P&G is switching a majority of their media to digital; while a good fit for a good number of their brands, I’m not so sure I understand how it will fit with brands like Charmin or Bounty (no offense intended for any managers on these brands). I’m hoping that they do more than just create a Timeline on Facebook and encourage consumers to “LIKE” the page in order to receive discounted coupons. Hopefully those days are over.

  6. Blair Smith says

    It’s astounding that this is still a discussion point. It seems like common sense to me. Why is this viewpoint not widely held? Very insightful as always, Tom.

  7. Chris says

    Its driven top down isn’t it – markets evolve new platforms and ideas (facebook, YouTube etc) senior management in both clients and agencies see headlines about these platforms and ask the question “what are we doing with Facebook” . . . This then gets washed through lazy agency processes either at creative agencies or indeed media. Who want to play back the fact that they are going to give the client something in the space that is being talked about by senior management at the same time as these same people know that the clients they are selling it to don’t really understand how the platforms are catalysts for good ideas rather than the answer to a business problem themselves. So they replay the words even if it wont make a difference to thier business. The solution ? Create better open relationships at a more senior level that organise around ideas that are useful and interesting. Then work out how you make the things famous.

  8. Naomi K. Shapiro, Upstream Commerce says

    Hi Tom!

    “Online retailers are on the cusp of a totally new way of doing business. They have a unique opportunity to capture consumer mind share and wallet share if they can deliver consistent experiences and enable unique multichannel commerce behaviors before their competitors do. Success will rely on honing efforts to address user-centric customer experiences, narrowing the focus to the most-valuable programs, and electing the right technology strategy that will enable internal teams to deliver optimized experiences scalably.”
    (I wish I said this, but Oracle/Endeca says it better, in their white paper on E-Commerce Trends For 2012: Mobile and Facebook Take Center Stage as Online Retailers Focus on Customers’ Digital Experiences. (The company for which I manage media and content, Upstream Commerce, provides competitive intelligence/pricing intelligence tools to help online retailers dance faster and better in the dizzying new realm, as they wrestle with trying to find the best ways, including your suggestions, to try to create and maintain increased sales, and larger profit margins.

  9. Concettaw says

    Very insightful, Tom. Your cartoons are providing an amazing array of links I can use to make points in my graduate school classes (as a student, not a teacher).

    I was listening to a conversation this morning by a few local radio celebrities who were making the point that we have reached the point of saturation. Everyone is already connected to everyone. Its the same way with brands – you’ve already likely connected to a brand on one platform, so why do we need to have them on every platform? Its less a campaign of targeted thought and more a buckshot approach to marketing that’s really very sad. It points to too many people who do not think carefully about digital marketing.

  10. Chris Andrew says

    Agree with you Hugh. It isn’t a black or white issue. But the media should inform, enhance and inspire the creative. But the cartoon just points out sheer laziness. Facebook isn’t a strategy or a campaign. Its a platform, just like the others.

  11. Tracy Carlson says

    Another wonderful cartoon and post, Tom! A couple of decades ago, would anyone have accepted “being on cable, in specialty lifestyle magazines and on daytime game shows” as a campaign idea? Nope, that was called a media plan. Sure, social media are a bit different, but these differences only raise the stakes and need for thoughtful, original ideas. These ideas should start with the basic question: “Why on earth would anyone want to spend time with us/our brand?”

  12. Harvey Chimoff says

    Good points. It always comes back to having the right idea and right strategy, and then figuring out how to best execute. However, choice of platform is important too, and needs to fit the strategy and idea. FYI, there are some important new platforms being launched in political marketing that can help political groups better engage with voters, and help voters become better informed to make good decisions.

  13. Brian Geary says

    A lot of companies think this way when it comes to technology. They have all these tools (Social Media, mobile applications, websites etc…) at their hands but instead of developing strategy they just jump right into using these tools.

    I recently read a great book by Mari Smith on The New Relationship Marketing and in that book she wrote about a acronym called P.O.S.T – People, Objective, Strategy, Technology. Its actually a very good way to go about developing a plan for social media. I wrote a post about it on my blog. http://goo.gl/qi4Si

  14. Leucome.ca says

    Hum interesting :) I readed all your blogs
    And right now big brands really seem to fight against the online opportunity more that play with it.

    It remember me 12 year ago, when a x brand seller came to sell his pruducts. Ho interesting, I said. what is your website adresse, I will look for all your products… A website ? we don’t need it. Replied with absolute conviction !

  15. says

    Hi all,

    Many thanks for all of the enlightening commentary on this week’s cartoon.

    This week’s signed print goes to Ashley C for the important reminder that the relationship comes before both the big idea and the media, “engaging consumers with the brand instead of telling them what the brand stands for”.


  16. Deepak says

    Very simple and interesting again. The first question we ask when our clients say platforms (we’re a communications consultancy called drizzlin) is – what’s your story? What do you want to tell your audience? Most people don’t have an answer to that. It’s like the desire to be on stage not knowing what the act could be.

  17. Wander says

    I find it a bit paradoxical that this subarticle to the cartoon heralds P&Gs shifting of budget to digital as evidence for the argument that a big campaign idea determines the choice of media channel. My reading of that is actually that P&G is letting their choice of media determine their big idea.

    Do I disagree with P&Gs choice? No, of course not. Do I disagree that the big idea should determine what media we choose? Not fundamentally, no. But ultimately it’s never as black and white as all that. Sometimes the dog wags the tail, sometimes the tail wags the dog, and – if all is well – most of the time the dog and the tail wag in unison. There are plenty of examples of media influencing the campaign idea, and vice versa. Surely it all starts with a clear objective and a deep understanding of the people we’re trying to engage.

  18. Umair Maqsood says

    It’s been kind of a problem that Marketers face now a days. The companies don’t know what they want to get out of the Online Marketing. You have to be straightforward with your approach here and know where you want to end up!

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