Charlie Crowe, CEO of C Squared, a company that celebrates global media innovation could have (and would have) spent the entire day showcasing brilliant work from every corner of the globe at Marketing Week's Media Day last Thursday in Toronto. The presentation was bursting at the seams with award winning creative executions from C Squared's 2009 Festival of Media Event in Valencia, Spain.
Crowe inspired the 400+ attendees by demonstrating how creativity is the currency for breathing life into traditional media and that fueling this new currency is critical to the new era of marketing.
I caught up with Charlie later to delve deeper into the subject of innovation and into the trends that are emerging in the media landscape.
Because the day had been peppered with publishers highlighting the increasing thought leadership and flexibility they are providing marketers, our discussion started with the obvious trend towards disintermediation of agencies as publishers continue to develop their full service strengths.
Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines presented a great example of this. Black told a story of how Cosmopolitan Magazine the world’s top selling women’s magazine was able to provide P&G with a valuable research platform. The publisher recognized its strength in having unique access to the minds of women and was able to serve as more than just a media vehicle. By surveying its readers, the publisher delivered an unparalleled caliber of qualitative data directly to P&G.
Charlie said that he’s not met a single publisher whose strategy did not include a plan to target clients directly. Disintermediation has been a long-standing issue for agencies as they struggle to maintain their relevance and prove their value.
There are a number of reasons why publishers have developed their sales teams to become more innovative in their service to marketers:
- Dealing with agencies can be time consuming. Presenting ideas to creative teams as well as media planners and in some cases, account managers can create confusion a lengthy sales cycle.
- Direct communication with the clients allows the publishers to get a better understanding of the marketing challenges and gives them a chance to prepare more innovative solutions that sometimes bend the publisher's agency rules.
- Customization of content is much more readily achieved when the clients are in direct contact with he publishers. This is specifically true in magazines and other print.
Adding to the pressure on agencies was Crowe’s observation of a whole new breed of publishers. As brands begin to get a better grasp of their own reach and markets, they too are seeing opportunities to sell media. Crowe gave the examples of a well-known European ice cream company selling advertising on popsicle sticks and of a company that sells ads on their packages of cigarette rolling papers. Earlier in his presentation, there was an example of advertising through airport security bins. The point here is that fragmentation is much deeper and wider than the proliferation of TiVos and online media we’ve been analyzing to death and that the fight for consumer attention is truly relentless. The competition is lurking in a much higher volume and through much smaller channels.
When I asked Charlie to share some ideas on how marketers can stimulate innovative initiatives within their organizations, his advice was simply to attach a budget to innovation. Taking at least 10% of an annual marketing budget and using it for innovation with a back-up budget to support any run-away hits is the ideal scenario.
Charlie also touched upon the notion that brands need to be fully developed and understood before they can afford to flex their big ideas. When a brand attains self-awareness, its natural self-confidence shines through and earns the right to give consumers the gift of entertaining and engaging experiences that often fall outside of the conventional means of advertising.
Talking to Charlie about innovation in media left me feeling inspired and positive about the industry. Too often, we feel a sense of urgency that pushes us into a dark creative corner. Charlie echoes the sentiments of his company's Festival of Media event - to celebrate innovation and to ignite a global wave of creativity that will bring the media industry to new heights.