Convincing the client in an ever changing environment of the best possible means of getting the message across is getting tougher and clients are demanding innovation on every campaign, says Debbie Ihlenfeldt. And so they should. It is the only way one can break through the clutter and command attention.
The challenge is that innovation often comes at a cost, especially if you want to be first to market. Economies of scale do not often come into play until they go mass.
Often the numbers for a genuinely innovative idea may not make sense on paper but as brand custodian you know it is intuitively right to help innovate the brand out of the clutter of noise, and bring results. The challenge to planners then is to build such a compelling case that your brave client trusts you enough to back it.
Remember the hugely successful Free Wimpy breakfast idea that ran a few months ago? Another winning idea from The MediaShop!
With the ever increasing fragmentation of audiences and media budgets, not necessarily keeping up with inflation, it is becoming even more critical that media / communication channel strategists start to tap into more than just their planning tools if they are to unpack and guide or drive innovative thinking.
Luckily it is not only up to the media channel specialists to bring innovative thinking to the table; it has to be a team effort but as a planner it is important that you ‘get inside’ the consumers’ and clients’ heads to understand their definition of Innovation. Say dog and you think spaniel, I think bulldog…
Strategists need to (and the top ones do) find a balance between being the planner, the psychologist, the economist and sometimes even the ideas person. (Read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink but also read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – a landmark book on social thought and the human mind.)
The challenge lies with those brands that do not have deep pockets. They just have to work that much harder as smaller budgets force you to be innovative. Find new ways of using an existing channel. Remember it is how you say it and how you art direct the idea that also counts so it is perfectly acceptable to take an idea that has been used before – you just have to do it better.
Digital, and I of course include social media, although changing the face of advertising, it is are not the only answer to being innovative. There are definitely certain channels that have more relevance and still work for a particular target market. Especially in South Africa. To quote Harry Herber, “The 30-second TV ad may be outdated and past it’s sell-by-date, but it’s still the single biggest generator of advertising relevance by a long shot!”.
Take the case of the KFC advertorials running in magazines – someone thinks this is an innovative way of getting KFC into magazines? It must be costing them a fortune and is it relevant to the reader. Why? Well with such deep pockets I guess one can shoehorn a concept with a far-fetched rationale and make it work but the point is for real and meaningful innovation to shift change (perceptions and sales), it is going to become even more challenging.
So put on your big girl brooks as you start to accept that new ideas and original creative thinking is the new normal and that social media can be a great place to start as you ask consumers what they think is innovative before we apply our own preconceptions but do not throw traditional media out of the window. It is still very relevant. It is just how you use it that matters.
Debbie Ihlenfeldt is managing director of The MediaShop in Cape Town.
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