Media: A Moment with Russell Davies

What's a media budget, Mummy? When I worked at Wieden & Kennedy, the overall strategic question we were asked by Honda was how could it achieve an ambitious sales target while reducing the media budget every year. This is the greatest question I ever got asked by a client. If breakthrough thinking comes from disrupting assumptions (I'm sure TBWA has got a lot of PowerPoint proving it does), then this is a big old disruptive intervention. It made us think differently, it led to more creativity, more imagination, better strategies; because we were working to succeed without the media battering ram.

Dim as I am, the natural corollary of this only recently occurred to me; one day the media budget will get to zero. And if Honda might get there, lots of other brands might get there. If it was a possibility, why wouldn't you try hard to do it? Media budgets are where most of the marketing cash goes, if not most of the attention; and the marketing director who found a way to stop giving all that cash to media owners - and still build the business - would be a corporate hero. I'm not saying every brand could do this. I'm not saying every brand should. (But it's tempting, isn't it?) As a strategic exercise, it's hard to stop thinking about.

Imagine the next round of budget revisions entirely eliminates the media budget (instead of knocking off the tennis sponsorship and the Second Life experiment like it normally does). What would you do to achieve your marketing goals? Maybe you'd persuade the product and service folks to bake some more brand-oriented ideas into the actual delivery of the product. And swap some of your archive of funny old ads for a bit of broadcast sponsorship. Perhaps you'd talk to the sales people and the helpdesk and the delivery drivers; make sure they understand the brand story and are telling it well. Maybe you'd turn your retailers into media channels. Maybe you'd borrow £10,000 from somewhere and do something bold and innovative - because that's all you can really do with £10k. You'd do all this and more. This is probably what you should be doing anyway.

So imagine you had all these ideas. You worked out which were good, which would build the business and the brand, and then you suddenly got your £15 million given back. Would you just go back to spending it the old way? Or wouldn't you just amplify those brilliant ideas with decent wodges of cash? I suspect that you would. It'd probably work. And it would be a lot more fun.

- Russell Davies is a founder of The Open Intelligence Agency. russell@russelldavies.com.

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