The IPA has its Effectiveness Awards and the Advertising Works books that extract the meta lessons from those cases. They are a treasure trove of learning. Where, asks Electric Glue co-founder Nick Kendall, is our Media Works treasure trove?
This might be folklore, but I have heard tales that the legendary adman Sir Frank Lowe had three golden media rules.
Rule no. 1 – Always be first in break
Rule no. 2 – Launch in News at Ten
Rule no. 3 – Give me sixty seconds
Now you will immediately notice his rules apply to just one medium – TV!
So perhaps Frank’s golden rules were from a golden time. A time when choice of where, when and how to appear seemed… well, oh so simple.
Since then the media world has exploded into a cornucopia of broadcast and digital. The latest BARB data shows clearly how much even TV has changed. We now spend more time than ever watching film… but not necessarily on TV. So Frank’s rules would not survive today’s white heat of choice.
But what if the truth is “practices change but principles remain”?
What if Lowe’s “first in break rule” can be translated into a principle of “always aim to be in the time and place where the audience’s mind is most open.”
What if the “News at Ten rule” is a recognition of the principle that if all brands are in the trust business (some of the new e-commerce and fintech start-ups etc even more so), then “always search out an environment of authority.”
What if “the 60 second rule” is an underlying principle that media is not a neutral pipe to deliver eyeballs, but a canvas on which you paint your idea whether that is for five-second haiku films or five-minute docustories.
This got me wondering about whether such fundamental underlying principles have been clearly articulated by our industry. Where do we go to find an equivalent set of Media Principles?
One of the trends to be proud of in our business is the growing body of work on the principles of brand strategy; physical and mental presence, the power of fame, the importance of emotion, the short- and the long-term roles of advertising (or existing demand and future demand as James Hurman talked about at our first Gluesnight).
Our industry, therefore, increasingly has a shared language to debate and develop recommendations.
So is it time to be clearer on our fundamental Media Principles?
It is of course fair to say that some of those brand principles have already fed into our media thinking: 60/40 split across short and long, the need for frequency to build mental availability, the power of some media to build emotion more than others, the difference between search-based YouTube and the more reaction-based Twitter and TikTok.
But I think it is equally fair to say that these observations tend to arise as “implications,” rather than from concerted investigation by our media thought leaders.
And if Media Principles are being developed out there it is hard to think where to find them. Truth is, we develop our learning in fragmented ways: i.e. by media channel or agency initiative.
So they remain scattered. Does Frank offer us starters for ten? A clue for our future?
We need Media Principles for the media landscape today in all its streaming, digital range and all its forms from owned, to earned to paid.
I would start with one underlying principle: where and how your brand idea lives in the world really does matter. It matters in terms of effectiveness. At Electric Glue we hold this truth to be self-evident.
If the Sistine Chapel did not require us to lift our heads to the heavens, would it work as well?
If the Scream appeared on your mug vs the National Museum in Oslo, would the same queue form?
If Guernica was a postage stamp, would its horror be felt in quite the same way, as if you stood and witnessed it?
No, no, no.
We need principles now more than ever.
First and foremost because the input metrics that govern our language in media are only that – inputs. Tactics and practices to allow us to trade.
Coverage, frequency, OTS, CPT – how do they really help us define the one key output, our effect on the most precious media space… the hearts and minds of our audience?
The move to try and understand attention is a first important attempt to move to output as a measure of effectiveness.
But it is only the beginning. Attention measures how we notice things. How do we measure how we feel about something depending on how we come across it?
Media choice is a brand choice.
In our brand keys we always dutifully fill in the “how does our brand behave” section.
But our biggest brand behaviour is our media behaviour. That’s where most of our marketing budget is spent.
So if a brand, as Interbrand says, is “an idea to live by” how does it live in media?
My media is my brand. My brand is my media.
The recognition of this core truth is emerging as part of the deeper question about businesses’ and brands’ corporate role.
How “sustainable” is our media choice? How does our media supplier treat its employees? What role does our media partner play in society?
These questions were the reason we made the effort to engage with those debates and achieve BCorp status. Not to be nice, or good, but to be in a position from our experience to offer proper “brand is media/media is brand” advice.
These keystones of brand trust however are only the start.
We need also to understand the principles of how media builds, how our brand is seen. From ideal chat to action.
So let me use this article as a call for a new effort by our industry “to define, articulate, prove, publish and share our Media Principles.”
The IPA has the Effectiveness Awards and most importantly the Advertising Works books that extract the meta lessons from those cases. They are a treasure trove of learning.
Where is our Media Works treasure trove?
What are our principles?
This article was first published in the Electric Glue client newsletter.