Current Issues in Marketing Communications
Current Issue Essay on
“What is more important:
Media strategy or creative strategy?”
Advertising is a partnership between creative and media strategies. Each play a very important role in creating an advertisement, that it is almost impossible to draw a line between the two. Alasdair Reid (1994) asserts that as early as in the 1990s creative and media strategies were still very much inseparable due to the fact that advertising “used to be a very simple business” (1994, p. 15) – producing an ad was more focused on creation of the content, rather than the placement. These days, however, with new media spawning, separating media and creative carries only few, if any, consequences. As a result, there is an emerging concern on whether these two separate departments can fall victim to major disconnects in an effort to reach advertising goals. The question remains, has media strategy become more important than the creative half of the equation?
Creative and media strategies are part of the communication process that advertising is, and arguing which is more important means arguing whether it is the message or the channel that is more significant in the whole process. David Berlo in his book The Process of Communication (1960) lays out the process as “Sender-Message-Channel-Receiver”. Advertising follows this simple rule by transferring an advertiser’s message about a product, through a channel, towards the targeted audience. In this system, creative strategy plays its role as part of the Message – they transform the advertiser’s information into promotional content. In this context, creative strategies are responsible for two things: The Big Idea and Product Image. How The Big Idea works is probably best described by David Ogilvy himself, “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night” (1985, p.16). The content, arguably, is what makes advertisements lasting and memorable. The effect of creative content is so strong that every so often we see bad ad content producing negative perception of the brand or product as a result – thus highlighting the fact that creative strategy is directly responsible for Image. Perhaps one of the most powerful examples of negative image conceived by inappropriate creative strategy is BP’s rebranding campaign. In 2003, they adopted a new image and tagline “Beyond Petroleum” in an effort to rebrand itself as an environmentally responsible company. The strategic brand positioning, with a new visual and creative outlook, seemed like a considerable success with BP being considered one of the most recalled brands in the 2000s (Greyser, 2010). However, the image it created was nothing but negative. The campaign did not seem to correspond with BP’s record – they have been criticized repeatedly for environmental violations, even long before the 2010’s Gulf of Mexico incident, for example at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in 2006 (Carr & McKinnon 2006) and Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan in 2008 (Guardian 2008).The strategy actually backfired, and as a result BP’s brand equity decreased slowly and even more dramatically after the incident (Branding Strategy Insider, 2010). Despite creative strategy’s significance in the whole advertising process, media strategy has a more crucial role – to determine the Channel. While creative strategies are more concerned in helping shape the content, the Message itself is sourced from the advertiser – Creatives have no role in creating the Message. On the other hand, without media strategies, it is not possible for the Message to even reach the Receiver, as it needs a medium to be transferred in, and this is where media strategy comes into play. In 1964, Marshall McLuhan, the pioneer of media studies, coined a historical phrase in his revolutionary book...