Media is messing it up, all over again

25 Apr

[by Todd] Here we go, again.

Media agencies have decided they need to be in the content collection business. Witness Mindshare’s fragmentation into four units, one of which will "invent content" for benefit of their clients. And with it we see yet again the agency world skipping merrily down the roads of foolishness traveled so many times before.

SoapyThere isn’t much I remember from my college course, and even less from those on advertising. But, if memory serves, here’s the history of advertising agencies in a nutshell.

  1. Agencies created to buy ads in newspapers for clients.
  2. Started units to create ads, that it could then place in newspapers.
  3. Created radio shows, where actors read the ads that people were no longer reading in newspapers.
  4. Created TV shows, to place ads that were no longer performing in radio or newspapers.
  5. Break free from the ad agencies they’d created, because not everyone wanted to pay big bucks to make ads that media units could then place in newspapers, radio or television.
  6. Spun off interactive media groups, because buying ads online wasn’t as clean and easy as buying ads in newspapers, radio and television.
  7. Realized they’d made a mistake and are now trying to become all things to all people, again.

I may be missing some interim steps, but then again AdPrin was at 8:40 in the morning, and many days that just seemed to be an unreasonable hour to be awake. (God, I miss college.)

At every turn agencies first try to take on responsibility for creating something, then they ultimately spin off that discipline. That’s because creating content, albeit ads, shows or events, is fundamentally different from buying and measuring the impact of spending the client’s money. If you need any validation for that just compared notes of what a creative director thinks is cool versus a media director.

So now Mindshare has Déjà vu all over again and will start cranking out content for benefit of their clients. The announcement came just in time for a report from Forrester, Content Consumers Want. But the news for Mindshare isn’t good. It isn’t enough to know which consumers your brand wants to connect with, you have to understand what content people are willing to accept from your brand.

Over on one of the Forrester blogs Mary Beth Kemp makes the point like this:

Content is just an excuse to interact and build a relationship with consumers.  If the content is not connected with deep consumer intelligence and individualized data, media agencies are missing half the opportunity.

Is it just me, or does that sound like the job of account planners, analytic teams and strategists. How many of those have you seen sitting among the media planners?

But this isn’t just a folly of media units. It is another symptom of the demise of brand agencies. Wake up idiots. Your own media partners, formerly your in-house colleagues, think you’re too dumb/slow/indifferent to learn new tactics. While you continue to have dozens of creatives concepting bigger and more more expensive commercials, clients are looking for nimble, more efficient and measurable ideas.

So here we go again. Take note of the date, because five to seven years from now all these "invention" groups, as Mindshare will call it’s effort, will be spun off into new agencies. And 40 years from now we’ll go through the exercise all over again.