Simple Ideas Are Best Creative Spice

Aug 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

A wise man once said, “Man cannot live by bread alone.” In our world, a good media plan cannot live on 100 GRPs/week of network day and prime alone. That may be where most of the money is, and indeed where most of the heavy lifting is done, but it is the creative use of media that gets the planner’s juices flowing. With clutter at an all-time high and new technology such as TiVo further reducing television’s impact, media creativity is not just a nice-to-have fillip-it’s a flat-out necessity.
The best examples of creativity are gems of insight that can be expressed in one sentence. They stand alone, without a lot of problem/solution setup, and indicate a very human understanding of the product and the customer. They often become what a client remembers about a media plan.
Creative media options seem to fall into three broad areas:
* Timing creativity coordinates the appearance of an ad with the time of day when the product is used.
* Placement creativity capitalizes on unexpected, but intuitively obvious, concentrations of the target based on their lifestyle, mind-set or interest at the moment the ad appears.
* Trigger creativity uses an external event to trigger the appearance of an ad for a related product or service.
Here are some examples of media creativity, as opposed to visually arresting print or out-of-home ads. These examples are more a tribute to the art director’s craft. Some of the examples are simply brilliant advertising, but they all involve the creative use of media to link the consumer’s daily life experience with the advertised product.
Coordinated Timing
DiGiorno Pizza reinforced its position against carry-out/delivery by putting ads in the pizza section of the Yellow Pages.
Trade show exhibitors promote their booths on morning news programs that are watched in hotel rooms by conventioneers getting ready for the day.
FedEx promoted its tracking service with ads that ran before the late news, asking, “It’s 11 o’clock-do you know where your package is?”
Campbell’s ran commercials on radio and TV from 11 a.m. to noon suggesting “Soup for Lunch.”
Excedrin scheduled TV commercials as bookends around a commercial break to illustrate how quickly headaches disappear.
Creative Ad Placement
Doan’s Pills, with heavy usage in rural areas, sponsored a segment of the “Grand Ole Opry” radio program.
Boeing aircraft’s military sales division ran TV spots in the Army/Navy football game.
Raid Max, which is used against heavy roach problems in urban areas, took every available ad space, inside and out, on buses that traveled inner city routes.
Curel, a hand lotion with an upscale target, advertised in Playbill and sampled the product in restrooms during intermission at theaters carrying the ad.
Coors Light associated its brand with popularity and sociability among adult beer drinkers by placing the product on reality programs “The Restaurant” and “Survivor.”
Killian’s, a red Irish beer, focused its late-night schedule on Conan O’Brien, linking its brand traits to the redheaded Irish-American late-night host.
Pearl Drops Toothpolish used matchbooks to reach smokers with ads promising smoother, shinier teeth.
One of my favorites was this simple text on a card inside buses: “Of course people read transit advertising, just as you are doing now.”
Triggered Ad Campaigns
Nabisco’s Cream of Wheat ran radio copy that started with, “When it’s cold outside …” that was triggered by reports of cold, snowy weather.
Vitamin C Tropicana ran ads during flu season, triggered by reports from a company that tracks prevalence of the disease.
Windex Outdoor glass cleaner ran newspaper and radio ads in markets where the weekend forecast was sunny and above 70 degrees.
Not Just About Media
As these examples suggest, creativity is not just a matter for the media department. Many years ago, when I was media director on the Sun-Maid Raisin account, we were offered the front cover gatefold position of TV Guide’s Fall Preview issue-the magazine’s largest issue of the year. Since we were already planning to run a back-to-school coupon ad, the money had been budgeted. The account group loved the idea and took it directly to the client, who approved the buy over the phone. An hour later we owned it, without any consultation with the creative director.
Needless to say, he was not happy. The unconventional space for a coupon was problematic from the start. An ad was eventually approved, but this became a lesson to me that media creativity, no matter how exciting, must always involve the whole agency team.
We shouldn’t expect to build an entire plan around creative ideas because they typically lack reach and longevity-once revealed, the idea’s freshness is gone. But just as seasoning and spice add interest to our meals, planners should include some specifically identifiable creative element that adds sparkle to the core media plan.

Roger Baron is senior VP, media research director, at FCB/Chicago.