The message and the media could not be understood in isolation as they both co-existed. This was the conclusion of the distinguished panel that deliberated on ‘What comes first: Media or the Message?’ at the exchange4media Conclave 2009 in Delhi on June 5. The day-long Conclave was presented by Star News and powered by Hindustan Times. Yuva was the associate sponsor for the event. The event partner is Encompass.
The panel comprised Charles Cadell, CEO, Lowe Lintas Media; Vivek Sharma, CMO, Philips India; Rahul Saighal, CMO, Aircel; Ravi Deshpande, Chairman & COO, Contract Advertising; and Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar Universal. Sandip Tarkas, President - Customer Strategy, Future Group, moderated the session.
Throwing the session open for discussions, Sandip Tarkas said, “A good media innovation is the expression of a brand’s creative strategy.” He stressed on the fact that it was not easy to declare what came first. “It is like saying the problem is inside out or outside in,” he added.
Charles Cadell noted that identifying what came first was the heart of the problem, and it was more relevant in the case of India. According to him, “We cannot treat media and message separately. When we consider media, we should consider all forms of media and understand their accountability. This haunting issue is common to both creative agencies and their clients. There is no business model that explains what comes first.”
He strongly believed that restructuring business models was the only way of coordinating media and message together. Money should not define one’s choice of media, he said, adding that the concept of merging different kinds of media was a relatively new concept, though a good one.
Vivek Sharma opined that it was the client who brought the message and the medium together. The key question was why they were not coming together.
According to Sharma, for marketers the message came first, however, he also added that message alone could not do anything. “We must understand that both media and message are important. We need to figure out how to achieve a middle ground and understand their roles,” he pointed out.
Agreeing with Sharma, Rahul Saighal said that the message came first, while media played the role of magnifying it. According to him, the primacy of message was the core challenge. He mentioned two concerns – mass customisation and mass fragmentation – wherein if the idea did not involve all kinds of media, the idea in all probability would get rejected.
Ravi Deshpande added here, “We first need to understand the communication model. We must understand the psyche of people we are dealing with. If the message is an irritant for people but the media right, it is pointless, and vice versa. Ideally, a perfect message should determine the kind of media being used.” He further said that a huge range of media was available to advertise, however, it was important for these creative agencies to understand and master these mediums. Only then would they be able to pick the right medium. “It is the adhesive in a message that stays in the minds of people, which goes on to create a good brand,” he noted.
Shashi Sinha put in the final word by saying that the power of integration was extremely important. He said, “The division of media from the message is harmful to the advertising and media industry. We cannot see them individually, but unfortunately, we are segregated.”
The session concluded with an interesting Q&A session that saw questions ranging from accountability of advertisers and media houses to who raked in more profits, the media organisations or the creative agencies. The questions were well answered by the panelists and highly acknowledged by the audiences.