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Four qualities to look for in a media thinker

Opinion, 09 August 2017
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Great media thinkers must be multi-dimensional. They must be able to both understand the rules and create the conditions necessary for creativity to have impact. Colleen Leddy, Droga5's head of communications strategy and WARC Media Awards judge, outlines the four qualities needed in media thinkers. 

We need to redefine “media thinking” and build, grow and retain top media talent across all disciplines. That’s not new information. But as an industry, we know better than most that execution is just as important as the idea. The point I want to drive home is that in order to be better as an industry, it’s important that we actually take the steps to execute against these thoughts.

So how do we redefine “media thinking”? I’m not talking about traditional media planning here, but delving into the media ideas that can create impact and solve business problems—media thinking that can truly unite the creative idea and the media plan, ultimately creating a positive influence on our clients’ business.

That requires talent that can bring multi-dimensional thinking to the table. We want media thinkers who understand the rules and can make sure that we’re creating conditions for creativity to have impact. We want thinkers that get the foundational principles of media and the challenges and opportunities that come with different tasks, channels, platforms and technology. More importantly, we need those same people to be able to bend and break the rules.

Here are four guiding qualities to look for when identifying this new wave of media thinkers:

1. Thinkers that can inspire, helping people imagine what things could be.

Our best strategists are creative thinkers themselves, offering ideas and not just strategies as jumping-off points. They show you new technology, they identify exactly the right moment a consumer will be most responsive and they come up with ways to both use and hack platform best practices. (like Geico’s Unskippable campaign)

2. Thinkers that can be pushed and thinkers that can push people.

Inspiration is the right start, but building the ideas is where the magic truly happens. Building requires thinking that is sharp yet still malleable, and people that understand the EQ vs. just the IQ that is needed to get to great ideas, whether it’s shaping the core of the idea or designing the amplification plan.

3. Thinkers that aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves.

A nonlinear process, where each discipline builds on ideas vs one discipline leading, is messier. It’s much harder, especially as it’s not the way the industry currently operates, but it truly creates integrated ideas with the best aspects of all disciplines. More integrated, high-impact work is certainly worth that challenge.

4. Last but not least,thinkers that come from a lot of different disciplines. Media thinking is not just for those with a media-planning or media-buying background to own. 
In fact, I’ve found that creatives, especially when given the right brief and canvas, are some of the industry’s best media thinkers. It’s important to break down silos of disciplines and give more people exposure to publishers and technology partners so that they can better understand the canvas they have.

This is the vision we have started to execute at Droga5. It’s hard and a bit messy, but it’s proving to be worth it in our work and results. We’re looking forward to seeing how more agencies execute against the same strategy.

About the author

Colleen Leddy is Head of Communications Strategy at Droga5

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