Over the past 18 months, the barriers between bought, owned and earned have lowered further. The former category has thankfully enjoyed a major fillip, with media spend bucking the trend of previous years (pretty much everywhere apart from print, unfortunately). This is partly due to a resurgent economy, but also down to the innovation and excellence of this country’s media owners, such as ITV, Sky and Channel 4. Instrumental to this has been the collaboration with the braver media agencies – such as Carat, Goodstuff Communications, MEC and Starcom MediaVest Group – that have invested in new platforms and extended the boundaries of thinking in media.
The resurgence is also a result of campaigns – from the likes of Adam & Eve/DDB, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Mother, VCCP and Wieden & Kennedy – that have reassured brands of the value of putting strong, brave above-the-line ideas at the heart of integrated marketing campaigns.
Successful brands will be engaged in a very creative, personal and transparent conversation with their customers
The better agencies have wisely embraced the plethora of new techniques now available to creative people, which enable communication via new technologies at a startlingly granular, personal level. And this is also where digital specialists – such as AKQA, Lida, OgilvyOne and SapientNitro – are quietly pulling in enormous brand projects. This latter category has never been reliant on bought media and, significantly, all of the aforementioned agencies are becoming less so too.
Tomorrow’s successful brands will be engaged in a very creative, personal and transparent conversation with their customers. Some, such as Apple, Diageo and Unilever, have already gone some way down this path. And this is why owned and earned media – formerly known as PR – can only become increasingly important.
All media are becoming more "conversational". We live in an age when The Guardian crowdsources a huge chunk of its "editorial" content; when about half of the country’s 18- to 34-year-olds are registered with Channel 4; but also when brand owners and new-media behemoths hold vast amounts of data on you.
So the only guarantee of success for organisations will be to build profitable – but meaningful and honest – conversations with their audiences. Never has it been a more challenging but intellectually gratifying time to work in, and write about, this fast integrating industry.