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Harnessing the Power of Media to Make Ideas Powerful

Simon Orpin, founding partner and CEO at Electric Glue, on the impact of bringing media placement to the forefront of the creative process​

Everyone is trying to come up with the big idea. The one that’s going to be shared, talked about and remembered for years to come. Time and time again, marketing experts like Binet & Field have proven that great creative can be the biggest driver of profit. But in an age where the demand for constant content is ever-increasing, giving time to and coming up with the big idea is harder than ever.

Marketers are being challenged with a greater number of KPIs to hit, often with less budget to play with and too much focus on the immediacy of sales conversions rather than the longer-term processes of building a brand over time.

Over the years we have allowed the media buying system to carve a divide between creative and media. But as much as it matters how we say something, it matters where we say it. The two are intrinsically intertwined.

Often, brands are kept at arm's length to the media process by their agencies and the creative and media budgets are divided between marketing and procurement. This means that from the very beginning of the process, there’s an instant disconnect between the creative idea and its platform, and this can prove fatal to ideas and the brands they are there to promote and advocate.

Media deals are made and platforms are chosen based on data-driven ROIs and KPIs alone, without any consideration for what’s creatively best for the idea. The tendency is to spread marketing budgets out thinly (favouring the as-many-platforms-as-possible approach). The idea then needs to be shaped to fit these pre-existing media deals - but when has fitting in ever been a good way of standing out? In an age where it’s becoming harder for the big idea to break through, should we not at least be creating the right environment for it to flourish? When will programmatic be seen as problematic?

If we are able to glue the media and creative processes back together, ideas can be liberated. To do this you first need to put the client’s business problem right in the middle – to be shared and solved between brand, agency, media broker and media partners, all around the same table from day one.

We also need to start seeing media in a different light. Consider looking at a media owner as an ecosystem rather than just one entity or touch point. If you work with ITV for example, they don’t only have a bunch of TV channels anymore - they have ITV Hub, numerous programmes, their own social channels, own production companies, data, insight, talent and so much more. If we want to harness the power of media to make ideas powerful, it’s massively important for brand owners to have more direct dialogue with big media partners to fully explore what that media owner’s ecosystem can actually do for them. Brands are increasingly becoming media owners in their own right with multiple touchpoints with consumers. Sometimes it only takes a single media owner’s ecosystem alongside the brand ecosystem to bring an idea to life in all its iterations.

Matalan is one brand that changed its perception completely by tapping into this way of thinking. The fashion retailer wanted to refresh its unfavourable image and perception and be placed as ‘on the side of mums’. It became apparent that their target market was largely made up of mothers who were big fans of daytime chat shows. So, we tapped into this lifestyle habit using ITV’s ecosystem to create their own chat show, Matalan ‘The Show’, with the intention to promote all their current fashion and homeware items as part of a “life hacks” style programme.

Matalan 'The Show'

Using the partnership with ITV, we could play to their strengths and expertise in this style of content - the show was produced in house with the exec producer of This Morning running the project and they were able to secure celebrity talent such as presenters Denise Van Outen and Mark Wright amongst many more household names. The other media partner, Time Inc, added fashion credentials across their various titles and included their fashion editors as guests (and influencers) within the programmes. All this was at a fraction of the cost it would have been had they gone down the standard commercial route.

‘The Show’ primarily lived on Matalan’s website as well as YouTube with a new episode being released every fortnight. A TVC relating to each episode (essentially a trailervert) also aired across ITV to help drive viewers to watch the full episode online. It helped to completely change the perception of the brand leading to a 69% increase in sales and £50m growth in e-commerce within a year.

This is a strong example that demonstrates how essential it is to consider not only what the idea is but where the idea will be seen, so that campaigns can be shaped accordingly, with longevity, in a way that delivers the highest impact possible. When creativity is given the space to flourish in this way, in conjunction with its media platform, ideas can become truly powerful.

In a world of complexity, it is important to simplify to amplify. We focus on a small number of partners because there will be one out of a group of options that for various reasons will be the best fit to drive a particular brand forward. The collective eye is on one single prize: to grow the clients’ business by focusing on delivering commercial metrics rather than simply concentrating on media efficiencies. Effectiveness has to take precedence over efficiency and we all know that if we can help that business grow, they’ll invest more over time and all parties share the success.

If you just negotiate everything solely on the price you pay and then try and buy any media space going at that rate, then you’re never really going to get under the skin of an idea to see how far you can go to create extraordinary things. To create a fundamental change to a business as opposed to a small, incremental step change. To create fame. To outsmart in a market where you may well be outspent by the competition. To stand out.

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