Media agency work often involves "channel planning" during which we make assumptions about the role, significance and/or effect of communications given their channel (TV, radio, print, etc.). To inform their channel plans, media folks often look for idiosyncrasies in the ways their targets "use" various media... or "learnings" re: the roles these media (presumably) play in influencing brand awareness, consideration and transaction.
This strikes me as being a bit like judging the musicality of a song based on its source (e.g., disc-player, a radio or a record) or making claims about the impact of a movie by appeal of the DVD player, TV-type or iPad used to watch it.
The easy argument to make against a channel-planning mentality is to focus on the nature of the content itself as opposed to the medium (as in "that spot worked because it reminded him of something meaningful and funny, not because he saw it in 1080p HDTV."). The more elusive argument, however, is that what matters with content is WHY it is seen (and not how it was seen).
At a recent conference I heard a speaker say something simple (almost too simple to notice) which on reflection is a remarkable idea: "When your customer sees your ad…," he asked, "…does he even carethat you are there?" While the speaker was making an argument for niche-blog-placements over portal-placement ('where everyone just expectsto see you, making you invisible') I believe that his question is relevant to my distaste for "channel planning"…
When we take his question seriously, we are led directly to a place where "channel planning" (i.e., focusing on the 'canvas' that carries the message) reveals itself to be impotent when compared with, oh let's call it "significance planning" (or, "engagement planning") which focuses on why the message is seen in the first place.
How did you come to experience the message? What (meaningful) states of affairs led to your encountering it??
· Did a friend send you the content (and if so, what kind of friend; an early adopter? Someone who's opinion you trust/distrust?)
· Did you just happen to stumble onto the content?
· Did an authority figure direct you to the content?
· Did you encounter the content in a place in which you would never expect to encounter such content?
· Have you connected with a new group of friends on a social network and now seem to receive new kinds of ads (and are conscious of this)?
These are only a few of countless 'conditions leading the reception of a message,' and while I realize that we can't always control for the vectors taken by the content that we deploy in the name of building our clients' brands, perhaps it's time to start giving the idea some serious thought.
How is your target likely to feel when she sees your content (based where, when and from whom it comes)? What is the impact of her path to your content (or your content's path to her)?
Will she carethat you are there [wherever it is that you are]??
In this age, a given bit of content is just as likely to be seen in a magazine, online, on TV, on an iPod or and iPad (the "Is iPad content TV, print or digital?" question alone justifies my concern with the meaning and value of "channel planning"!). Therefore, shouldn't we go well beyond "channel" when planning to connect consumers with content?
Ed Castillo, SVP, Director of Account Planning at PHD Media, a Division of Omnicom. You can follow Ed @xandnotx
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