The answer was supposed to have been cable where marketers could experiment with new commercials and different program formats. But here, again, cable was taken over by those same ex-network and ex-spot “professionals” and the agencies, interested only in large audiences, approached the medium with a usual “business as usual” attitude. Now both are suffering because of it. (Incidentally, the network and cable dilemmas will only be solved by new approaches to programming and buying, not by staying in the same rut. A media man who takes the initiative and fights the odds will gain the foothold for his client’s brands–with or without a startling piece of creativity in the message itself.)
Other media have not sold properly to these advertisers who need new directions for new audiences. Magazines and newspapers, so long buffeted by the stampede of video, have failed to gear up for the public’s splintering of tv viewing patterns and, instead of selling to agencies in a new and exciting way, have bowed to those “let’s not dare change anything” pundits and have thus lost valuable time and momentum.
Radio stations, the perfect frequency-oriented medium, still holding on to their small but extremely loyal audiences on a day-in, day-out basis, have been content to gather in paltry crumbs rather than go for a whole loaf at a time.
But these smaller advertisers could–and probably should–find a piece of geography where each can be equal to the leader and then with the creative message begin to make major inroads. There are still avenues to be truly creative, but they just could be in the creative ways media is planned and bought.
Are the computer companies wise in all trying to fight it out on network tv? One company has the dominant position in spending and with a brilliant creative concept working for them as well. Competitors with messages of lesser importance could embrace magazines — which might help develop a more response oriented, meaningful sales message — or offer “learning programs” with total family involvement through Sunday supplements and cute backpacks.
Creativity is indeed the job of an advertising agency for its clients, but in these volatile times it’s time for media people to show that real creativity may and must come from where we spend our money as in the message we use.