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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Need for Detachment

Detachment has been defined as an inner state of calmness and being uninvolved in the emotional aspects of an issue. In recent history, detachment has something of a bad rap. Most of us think of monks or other contemplatives as people who are detached and it is not for those of us in the world of business. Others consider detachment to mean indifference. In my experience that is not the case at all. Many people can be actively involved in an issue and be caring but, due to detachment, can accept calmly whatever happens.

A number of years ago I put together an early power-point on this topic and dubbed it “The Importance of Being Lukewarm.” The presentation fell flat on its face. Today, I want to re-open the issue because I feel a sense of detachment is crucial in today’s environment for good media execution.

Way back in the 1970’s, a concept came into vogue called “Zero Based Media Planning.” The idea was that just because a specific mix of media worked well last year does not mean that a renewal of that plan would be good for the current year. Each year your market situation changes, your competition rarely stays static, and the media is constantly evolving. Sounds logical, right? So, you need to start fresh and look at each media vehicle with a fresh eye and a bit of detachment.

Here we are 35 years later and the need for a zero based approach is more crucial than ever. The media is changing far faster with new opportunities emerging each year. Yet most people serve up plans that may be tweaked a little year to year but most of those are driven by client budgets or media costs rather than a complete review of the prior year’s media mix.

A good example is sports packages. Some advertisers have been sponsors of a team for a generation or more. Rates go up and they keep paying the freight. I love a good TV sports package and in an age where too many viewers have an itchy trigger finger on their remote button, sports offer better attentiveness and viewer interest than many other options. But, a lot has changed. Broadcasters and cable entities can provide campaign extensions, appearances, promotions, contests, special features and a host of other opportunities that were not available even several years ago. Yet some people keep doing the same thing year after year with no real measurement as to what good it does them.

Ask media planners about this and 90% immediately get defensive. Those who do not are very impressive as they track you through their new plan, show the changes and options that they rejected and give a cogent rationale for a plan similar to the prior year. Sadly, most do not and cannot.

Part of detachment is my old idea of being lukewarm. Do not fall in love with a particular vehicle that is all new nor one that you have used for years. Work a bit harder and start off with a blank sheet of paper. Just because we have used a medium or specific vehicle for 15 years does not mean you need to commit the same amount of weight to it in the coming year. We all talk about change but how many of us truly recognize it when drafting a recommendation. Also, we need to be careful not to go too far the other way. I remember in the late 1980’s fighting off a client who wanted to go 100% cable and kill all conventional TV. Well, his business was not ready for that back then and still is not.

We are all human. Over time one can get friendly with sales reps from specific media. It is good to have cordial relationships with everyone but if renewal means your planner or negotiator gets a station trip or too many fancy dinners, something is way out of whack. By needing to defend each medium every year, you can avoid some of the cronyism.

Some people believe that it should all be linear. Cut back TV 5% per year and re-allocate that to new digital opportunities is an approach that I have seen. Well, change does not come in a straight line. When our markets touched bottom in the 1st quarter of 2009, media values were often better than they were in a generation. A zero based approach would have taken these marketplace pricing factors into consideration and shifted dollars to better effect for many advertisers than a rigid formula.

What I am suggesting is not original, nor is it hard but it does take a bit more work. If you are detached from the past and look at the new year as just that, new, and are not wedded to any particular medium or vehicle, you will do a better job for your clients. And, your satisfaction on the job may actually increase.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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