Are networks set up to do joined-up thinking?

There’s a popular TV show – you may have seen it – in which an engaged couple is given a budget to plan their dream wedding. The catch is the entire process is left up to the groom, with his bride-to-be only finding out the majority of the details on the day.

Invariably the groom will know his fiancée’s broad likes and dislikes and vaguely what style of wedding she would like. But when push comes to shove he is blinded by the free cash and will blow 70% of the budget on a stag do, a free bar and a DJ that only he likes. The poor woman is expected to get to the church in the back of her dad’s Toyota, there’s no budget for dress alterations and the wedding breakfast is courtesy of her boyfriend’s cousin’s take away business.

Sure, she gets a wedding, but it’s not one that any guests will be inspired to replicate, and it won’t be an experience she will want to relive any time soon. But then this style of planning was never going to be a rip-roaring success.

Now, marketers, how would you feel if you paid someone to handle your advertising only to find their main priority was not telling your brand’s story, or how it would translate on different platforms, or where, how and when your target customer consumed their media, but whether they could shoehorn your ads onto whichever TV channel they had done a deal with two years previously. Incredibly this is a very common practice among network media agencies. Deals are struck with media owners months – years – in advance with a promise to put as much as 50% of their clients’ collective ad spend through that channel. Which of course makes any detailed consumer insight or tailored targeting irrelevant.

Creative agencies are very capable of creating iconic, era-defining work. They can tell a brand’s story beautifully, artistically, memorably. But if that story is not told to the right people in the right place at the right time, it will be lost. The brand will not be getting any efficiency and the return on investment will be far lower than it has the potential to be.

Each channel has its own artform, be it commercial TV, social media, billboards or digital display, but unless your media agency and creative agency are working hand in hand from the very outset, no marketer will get the best possible outcomes from its advertising.

This collaborative approach is not a natural arrangement when your business is with a network agency. Employ independence, however, and the benefits are multi-faceted. If you have independence you have independent thought. You have access to shorter lead times allowing for agility of movement and decision. You are not unwittingly committed to trading deals done long before you hired the agency. You will see far more of the C-suite team who have not outsourced your business to their juniors but are wholly dedicated to and passionate about your success.

We’ve all heard of the left and right side of the brain working together for optimum output. Well think of the media agency as the left and the creative agency as its complementary right. In isolation they can function but when they work together they are notably more efficient.

Just like a wedding is entirely bespoke and should tell you everything it can about the happy couple, so a media plan should be completely unique to the brand in question. Whether you opt for an ad in Coronation Street, seek out your audience by creating something that is genuinely useful to them, such as an app or service, or provide a piece of entertainment for them to enjoy, there is not a single aspect of your plan that should be approached with a one-size-fits-all attitude.

And the funny thing is, this does not need to be complex. In fact, working in this way is not only common sense but more simple than most alternatives. The problem is a lot of people have a vested interest in making it appear complicated.

Today’s consumer is hyperconnected and empowered and they’re in charge. They are more illusive and less biddable than ever before, which makes efficient, highly targeted advertising communication more crucial than it has ever been.

Advertising needs to be tight enough that everything is aligned but loose enough that every medium can play to its own strengths. Otherwise you are simply being sold someone else’s wedding.

By Robin Trust, CEO

This article was first published in The Times’ Raconteur supplement