MEDIA FORUM: Is the line between media and creative blurring? - Good Housekeeping’s new campaign involves an innovative collaboration between the magazine and Initiative Media. Initiative is responsible not only for the brand strategy but also for

In theory, it’s only natural that communications specialists will find a role for themselves further upstream in the marketing process.

In theory, it’s only natural that communications specialists will

find a role for themselves further upstream in the marketing


In the good old days when television was the only game in town and ITV

was the only commercial channel in television, you could take so much of

your media strategy for granted. For smart clients it was obvious that

the priority was to find the creative expertise (and its account

handling minders) that you felt comfortable with.

As the world has become more complicated, with media fragmenting and

consumers discovering choice, the medium has begun to be as much of a

worry as the message. So who better to set you on the right road than a

communications specialist? The specialist has no set agenda and no

prejudices . If appropriate, they can direct a client in all sorts of

other directions, either above or below the line.

And if you concede the argument thus far, then surely the logical next

step is that the communications specialist, as the first port of call,

will increasingly drive the advertising process. Having devised a media

mix designed to reach the brand’s optimum target market, it can surely

advise on the types of creative outfit best placed to understand and

make the most of the selected routes to market.

Much along the lines, in fact, of the collaboration unveiled last week

by Good Housekeeping and Initiative Media. Having been appointed to work

on the National Magazine Company’s title, Initiative and Good

Housekeeping senior staffers began a brainstorming process from which a

core brand communications concept - the issue of ’time management’ - was


As the magazine’s editorial staff worked to showcase this brand

positioning more effectively, Initiative then took it to campaign stage

by working with the creative shop Red Rocket.

Tony Manwaring, Initiative Media’s chairman and creative director,

explains: ’Our approach was to create a positioning that would work in

every medium. Good Housekeeping is a famous title with a rich heritage

but it needed to engineer a future for the brand in promotional terms.

The issue, as we saw it, was that the magazine has traditionally been

seen as primarily to do with the kitchen and the home. We wanted to take

it out of the kitchen and to do that we focused on time and time

management, which is a key issue for the target market.

’These days there are lots of opportunities for women but not enough

time for them to grasp them. We saw Good Housekeeping as a legitimate

flag bearer for this issue - we wanted to take the platform of time

management and own it. We have worked very closely with the magazine and

the issue works editorially and is a long-term proposition that can go

in many directions - it is not just another here today, gone tomorrow ad


Manwaring believes that the important point to take from this approach

is that a media specialist can drive a communications concept down any

number of routes: ’We are technique neutral and if you don’t have a

vested interest it is easier to have that objectivity. Companies that

specialise in one technique tend to offer that technique - it’s

difficult for them to do otherwise.

I think we’ll see more clients responding in innovative ways to a richer

and more fragmented media environment. The opportunity is there. It

comes down to whether media specialists have the talent to do it.’

Lindsay Nicholson, the editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping, says: ’It

was agreed that we wanted something that reflected the whole magazine

and its history, and time management has been a central theme in what

the magazine has been about over its 78-year history. Once we had

decided to tie that in with the May issue, a lot of things followed. For

instance, we knew that the research into time management we commissioned

would generate a lot of public relations response. What we definitely

didn’t want was the television commercial you get from going down the

conventional route. Doing it that way you always get something that

doesn’t have much to do with the magazine as a whole and it’s usually

linked to short-term promotional activity. You do the ad, sales go up

and then everyone forgets about it for a while. In the past I’ve always

felt that to be pretty unsatisfying. Doing it this way is harder work

but far more of a long-term proposition.’

Do others see this as a blueprint for the future? John Harlow, the

managing director of Rocket (no relation to Red Rocket), which markets

itself as a ’creative media’ company, comments: ’The market is very open

for companies that don’t feel they have to live in the old boxes any

more. There are lots of clients out there that feel confident entering

into the communications environment through media specialists - it has

been very noticeable, for instance, among dotcom companies. It’s about

thinking across all the possible communications channels and then

plugging into the appropriate ones. In general, the smarter media owners

find media specialists a natural entry point, especially as so many are

using techniques that use non-traditional solutions. The world isn’t

being stood on its head overnight but I think we’re seeing a shifting of

the balance. It used to go without saying that creative was the entry

point but these days it’s by no means all one-way traffic.’

A decade ago, CIA Group toyed with this idea by appointing a creative

director. The experiment didn’t last long but David Wheldon, the chief

executive of CIA Medianetwork, reveals that this experience hasn’t made

it scared of innovation. He states: ’When we acquired Added Value (the

brand consultancy company) we already had a notion that there was a

different way of doing things. We’ve shown that on several occasions. In

general, the relationship between the media owner, client and media

agency could be explored more thoroughly. I think most people recognise

the principle that a creative agency is not the only place you can go to

get creative work done. We certainly don’t want to become a different

kind of advertising agency but we’re also well aware there’s more than

one approach.’