Does media planning need to shift to media reacting?
A view from Lawrence Dodds

Does media planning need to shift to media reacting?

Successful "newsjacking" requires a hugely condensed planning schedule - and therefore a great deal of trust between agency and brand - UM's planning manager writes.

"Newsjacking", the art of piggybacking on topical news stories, is a discipline that’s probably most closely associated with public relations, as PR agencies have been scanning the press for comment opportunities for their clients for decades.

Social media has since proved to be a fertile ground for brands to show their human side and timely tweets can develop into memes that can reach millions for better or worse. However, it’s still rare to see newsjacking in advertising.

It’s understandable that brands should want to capture the zeitgeist and take on the news agenda. Done well, newsjacking can be hugely share-worthy, recently Acne’s work for Ikea has been doing the rounds on social media. However, it can equally backfire badly: brands may be accused of bandwagon-jumping, or worse, of bad taste, and they have been burned by both in the past.

Planning campaigns around news events for which there are scheduled dates – royal weddings, elections and so-on – is a well-worn tactic, but responding to news as it breaks is viewed as more challenging. However, as media agencies become more agile this could, and should, change.

The news agenda doesn’t stand still and the media has reconfigured itself to respond to breaking news in real time and on an ongoing basis. Advertisers and the agencies they call upon need to readjust to this new world if they want to connect with consumers around the stories that will reflect positively upon their brands

Newsjacking has now been around long enough for a playbook to have been established and we won’t go over best practice again here. Even so, there is still an element of risk to any brand employing this approach, but the level of audience cut-through can make it one worth taking.

Getting it right means the agency needs to know the brands it represents inside out – to the extent they recognise the parameters within which they can operate instinctively. As such, adops teams should only put a newsjacking idea forward if they are 100% confident it sits comfortably with the client's brand values.

Successful newsjacking is contingent on being able to push a campaign through sign-off quickly and this implies a great degree of trust between agency and client. The strategy relies on a close alignment between agency and client with clear lines of communication. This is because it necessitates a hugely condensed planning schedule. To place this in context, the process of putting together a digital campaign typically takes around five days, from proposal to sign-off; however to remain topical you realistically have just 12 hours to push the idea through.

This requires a deeper level of integration with clients; agencies need to think of themselves as being more than just a supplier, and vice versa. Rather, media agencies should aspire to be both trusted advisors and the custodians of the brands with which they work.

We believe it's this type of close relationship between agency and client that represents the future of this sector. The media landscape has evolved beyond the traditional fall backs of scale and price, therefore trust and strategic consultancy are what will come to define the value the industry can offer.

Lawrence Dodds is planning manager at UM