OPINION: The evolution of channel planning

Justin Baird and Ben Cunnington
By Justin Baird and Ben Cunnington | 4 July 2012
Jumptank's Justin Baird and Ben Cunnington.

In 2011 a small start up company called Interlude, which was founded by Israeli pop star Yoni Bloch, quietly and skilfully introduced a transformational technology into the space of online music video. Interlude allowed consumers to create, in real-time, a unique and dynamic version of a music video, one of the best known instances being Andy Grammer’s song ‘Keep Your Head Up’, which won MTV’s O Music Award for most innovative video.

Through a choose-Andy’s-adventure format, users control the direction of the clip and finish with a shareable, one of a kind version.

What’s most interesting about Interlude is that users spent about three times as long engaging with the interactive video as with a comparable clip on YouTube, and are 800% more likely to share the clip.

Interactivity leading to stronger engagement is far from a new revelation. But it leads to a broader movement that there is a fundamental shift in the way marketers and agencies need to think about reaching consumers.

It may be wrapped within different strategic processes, but in essence, most media agencies are focused on the when and where to reach their audiences; instead of determining how they are going to reach their audiences to deliver a desired outcome for a brand.

Channel planners need to evolve their thinking in the way that many other industries have started to adopt a different point of view.

Think of the way construction companies now design, build and market projects. They no longer present the buildings; instead they present the built environment, focused on people and the elements that enhance the experience of the people that will live or work in that space.

What does this mean for agencies? 

Agencies need to reverse the traditional approach to channel planning and start by looking at the how - not the when and where.

The question to ask is, how as a brand can we create an environment that will build an experience for the audience to engage with?

The how becomes the focus and the where and when is then dictated by the audience and becomes the objective of a campaign - not the strategy.

Within this construct, the notion of a ‘media environment designer’ is a more relevant description for what today’s media planners need to be doing. We need to embrace a new approach that comes with truly being focused on experiences instead of channels.

Reshaping channel planning doesn’t mean that we need a new breed of people with fancy new titles or a change in the communications processes that exists. Instead, we simply need a new perspective, just as architects now think well beyond the four walls of the building when they design.

Planners must shift their perspective from inserting messages into channels being consumed. Instead, they should build experiences that are valuable to the brand’s audience, to draw the audience in with value of one form or another. This is a classic example of moving from a push to a pull strategy.

Stella Artois is a brand that created a highly successful pull strategy, developing an interactive theatre linked to its premium Black brand called 'The Black Diamond'. Consumers become an audience for the experience that Stella created, and they even paid to become active participants at immersive events held throughout London. 'The Black Diamond' was a truly engaging experience that people wanted to be part of.

As we navigate through this new landscape we need to apply criteria to the way we assess communications. We must look at the environments we are building rather than the channels we buy. We must be focused on designing experiences.

Create an experience that your audience will actively seek rather than trying to reach out to them in an environment when you’re just interrupting what they’re really there for. Create new experiences, new opportunities to interact and new ways to entertain your audience, and you’ll draw them to your brand.

Justin Baird and Ben Cunnington
Group Innovation Director and Group Strategy Director

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