Whose line is it anyway?

In the last sixteen years I’ve worked across the entire agency spectrum with agencies who described themselves as above the line, below the line, through the line, integrated (no line!) and now of course, online. What’s been interesting is that consistently during that time the wider industry conversation about approaching the development of strategic thinking for a brand or campaign has been about ‘Big Ideas’, ‘media neutral’, ‘customer centric’, ‘integrated’ thinking. However, it has been my experience that despite all ideas being good ideas, and the noticeable demise of TV spend in marketing campaigns, still the big brand, core campaign ideas tend to emanate from an ATL agency initially.

In the last sixteen years I've worked across the entire agency spectrum with agencies who described themselves as above the line, below the line, through the line, integrated (no line!) and now of course, online.

What's been interesting is that consistently during that time the wider industry conversation about approaching the development of strategic thinking for a brand or campaign has been about 'Big Ideas', 'media neutral', 'customer centric', 'integrated' thinking. However, it has been my experience that despite all ideas being good ideas, and the noticeable demise of TV spend in marketing campaigns, still the big brand, core campaign ideas tend to emanate from an ATL agency initially.

Lately, things have been shaken up a bit. Online is obviously not just a communications channel but, in many sectors, it is also a key sales channel. In fact, this year, many businesses we are working with are seeing online overtake other sales channels to be the best revenue generator for their business. And it is this fact that appears to have had the biggest impact on the way campaign and media planning is evolving.

Sure, some businesses have had digital at their core for some time, but a surprisingly large number of big brands have had relatively small, lean digital teams. They've been working hard over the last 5 years trying to manage all of the communication opportunities that the internet presents for their products and brands. In the last 12 months though, we've seen a real culture shift from senior management teams in some of these big organisations. Tougher times have accelerated the growth of their interest in all things digital.

Tighter budgets mean smarter spending and with budgets being cut in traditional media, all eyes are on the more trackable online spend and the opportunities to build on the successes achieved through websites, email, social media and online media. What is exciting here is that this has had a very quick impact on the way campaigns and big ideas are being developed.

With this increased focus on the importance of digital, the approach to the big idea is being turned on its head. At last, big campaigns briefs are being given to digital agencies. Either at a joint agency briefing with ATL and BTL agencies or sometimes just to us - first. We're being asked to look at creating great ideas that will really work online and how they will translate through outdoor, TV and press. And not the other way around. We've always approached every brief by looking at the big brand picture and what the consumer will really engage with on every level and through each channel. And in fact, through this approach, we were approached to produce a website for the Oxy brand and ended up creating ideas the client liked so much that they asked us to produce the TV ad!

It's not new for us, but it is a trendshift for the world of marketing. And we're loving it. As a bunch of professionals with really integrated backgrounds we're loving the chance to create some big ideas for some great brands - ideas that transcend the channels. And as we work with analytics everyday, we are absolutely focused on what consumers are looking for - and more importantly, actually buying. Combining this insight with traditional consumer research gives us even better information to start work on creating great ideas that we know will resonate with consumers.

What does the future hold? As the digital spectrum continues to grow exponentially, the challenge for marketers will be managing messaging through fragmenting channels. There may be many challenges on the road ahead, but with agencies working collaboratively and a good mix of brand thinking combined with some great insights the focus has to be on creating campaigns that build brands and create sales.