creative-mediaAt a The Wall Street Journal Viewpoints breakfast in April, Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, said that media planning is more important than creative.

He also emphasized that data has become an integral part of marketing, and therefore, media needs to have a more dominant role.

So, should the channel of distribution, especially newer forms such as native, mobile, and social, guide the campaign? Should creative simply fulfill the needs of the medium?

Sorrell may have a point about data and ROI driving more campaigns, but this statement simply plays into the ongoing debate that one should come before the other — and that we have to define which is more valuable.

We asked a few advertising executives to provide their thoughts on if the choice of media matters more than the creative.

Robert Harwood-Matthews, President | TBWA Chiat Day New York

It might be an issue of scale. At the level of the click we crave accuracy, messaging is hacked at, changed in real time, fluid to the nuances of actual behavior. The immediate creative plays servant. At the other end of the spectrum, it is reversed — the delivery supports and enhances the action, playing at a deeper level.

With the internet of things and a seamless digital environment, our skill lies in recognizing the idea versus the tactic, what is worth slaving over versus what is automatic. We cannot value one over the other, nor can we seek in business to ‘put it all back together’ — that is just sentimental. An engineer would understand. At one end it’s all about precision; at the other it’s about what it all adds up to.

Steve Schildwachter, EVP, Chief Marketing Officer | rVue, Inc.

The choice of media matters just as much as creative, if not more.

My definition of ‘media’ encompasses all the ways consumers and brands may connect with one another — paid, owned, earned, and not-yet-invented. Because there are so many options, the choice of media has real consequences for the advertiser's ROI.

Does that mean media trumps creative? No. Nothing matters if the creative work doesn't connect the consumer and the brand. But it's impossible to develop creative without knowing where it's going, because the idea must adapt to fit the medium that activates it.

Both media and creative matter, but the industry has artificially separated them. In fact, it seems like they've been apart so long that they've forgotten each other. We can change that, and drive results, by working on them simultaneously.

Deacon Webster, CCO | Walrus

Based purely on what clients see as a conflict, the answer would be, no, media doesn't matter more than creative. While agencies are on a tight leash when it comes to working on anything remotely in the same category as an existing client, media companies are under no such restrictions. That being said, I believe the media plan is at least as important as the creative, and clients are nuts not to consider their media plan a proprietary piece of thinking. Take the last presidential election: Obama's media folks managed to determine that swing voters were watching, for example, late night television, and so they heavied up in that space and hit all the right people at a fraction of the cost. It was a huge advantage. Without question, great creative makes media work even harder and can even help expandreach, but the two go hand in hand. One is the gas, the other the engine.

David Baldwin, Lead Guitar | Baldwin&

It’s of no use to have a great placement if the creative is wrong. Ultimately, what you want is for the creative and the media to work together. The good news is that there are now so many different, interesting ways to get to the right people with the right message. But try running the wrong message anywhere, and it becomes irrelevant. You’ve just wasted your investment.

Robert Passikoff, Founder & President | Brand Keys, Inc.

No. Assuming you've done your homework regarding media outreach and brand engagement, they matter equally, or more precisely, they create a synergy for the advertised brand. The best ad on an inferior media platform is pretty much the same as a bad creative execution on the best media. You end up putting something out there, but it fails to engage the audience.

Originally published Aug 8, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Social Media Strategy