There’s No Such Thing as Traditional Media, Only Traditional Ideas

What do sheep, scavenger hunts, and stunting the Super Bowl all have in common?  They’re all examples of breakthrough ideas that ran in so-called “Traditional Media” channels.  While the term “traditional” is technically an accurate way to describe long standing media channels like TV, Print, Radio, and Out-Of-Home, there’s a certain baggage that comes with the word because it doesn’t convey innovation, creativity, and overall brand-new-shiny-object-ness.

Let’s face it, the word “Traditional” is a pejorative to most marketers.  But, there are many inspiring examples around the world of companies using old school media in very breakthrough and innovative ways. These brands “break the rules” and all know the importance of the idea itself versus the media channels it runs in.  I spoke to leaders at several of these companies to figure out their secret sauce and the common thread is that they start with a brand brief, not a separate media or creative brief, but a very strong stake in the ground for what the brand stands for.  This brief informs not only the creative concepts, but the media channels, and using a media strategy that actually reinforces the brand values.

  • Miller High Life, Super Bowl 2009 1-Second Ads:  There’s nothing very novel about  buying a multi-million dollar :30 Super Bowl ad.  In the world of traditional advertising, this is a pretty traditional (and, expensive) tactic. And, most often isn’t associated with a return-on-investment or short term payback. But, in 2009, Miller High Life turned the tables on the Super Bowl media buys and used it to their brand advantage: negotiating the first ever :01 second ads (they actually bought :05s and faded to black on either side of the spot).  The brand stands for “common sense in a bottle” and facing the increasing competition of more “premium beers” they needed to find a way to have the idea of a “common sense” beer break through.  Former Miller High Life Senior Brand Manager, Kevin Oglesby, who was on the team that led the campaign, said the idea started with drafting a brand brief together with their agency Saatchi & Saatchi that had the objective of reinforcing “common sense” front and center, to inform the creative ideas and the media: “we are saving money on the Super Bowl ad, so we can pass more savings and quality on to our customers.”  Super Bowl season is technically counter-seasonality for the brand as consumers opted for more premium beers.  The campaign included a site,, and PR push including a live demo of a one second-long ad on the Tonight Show.  And, the strategy paid off: the business grew 8.7% during this time period, and represented the greatest return-on-investment of any campaign at the time. The Pittsburg Steelers weren’t the only ones who won that Super Bowl! Check out the work on YouTube.
  • jetBlue, #NYCTakeOff Bus Shelters: Nothing sounds less innovative than having Bus Shelters as part of your media buy. But, not the case when you have the combination of jetBlue and Mullen Lowe / MediaHub behind the idea.  For a recent local #NYCTakeOff campaign, jetBlue told people to steal their bus shelter ads, and rewarded them for it with a scavenger hunt across the city, giving them free flights, tickets to premier events, and gift certificates to local New York institutions in exchange for the ads.  Jade Watts, SVP Group Media Director at Media Hub said “we received a unique opportunity for some discounted bus shelter space, but the idea was concepted off of the main brand brief: jetBlue always wants to be first to market with new ideas and tactics that fulfill on the brand idea to inspire humanity.”  The “You Above All” campaign has been in market for the past 5 years and all the work led by this agency and client partnership continues to ladder up to it.  Mullen Lowe and MediaHub are the perfect example of the creativity that can happen when media and creative are under the same roof, these days most brands are working with separate media and creative agencies making integrated ideas more challenging (but, not impossible).  See the work as covered by Adweek.
  •, World’s First Two-Minute Meditation TV Ad: With the growing global interest in finding ways to un-plug and re-charge our minds,, in partnership with media agency partner All Response Media, took advantage of this by launching the world’s first two-minute meditation TV commercial in the UK. Feeling frenzied today?  Then, take a look at the ad yourself on YouTube.  Colin Gillespie, Chief Strategy Officer at All Response Media, said the brand brief informed “why the company exists” and helped them identify that running the calming creative in the backdrop of some of the nosiest TV broadcast programs, was “the perfect contrast to the creative.” And, while the spot doesn’t feature traditional DRTV creative elements, the “try before you buy nature of it drove a lot of response“. Clearly, because during the TV test the mobile app moved up in the Apple charts to become “App of the Week.”  Once again reinforcing that TV media buying is not just about TRPs (or TVRs) or even CPMs, but having a creative strategy to breakthrough in the sea of noise.  As Gillespie put it: “Sometimes we have to be brave. It’s important to be different.”
  • Some of my other favorite examples: The August 22, 2006 edition of The New Yorker magazine in which Target bought out all 18 pages — a first for the magazine.  The ads were a salute to New York and featured illustrations by more than 12 artists. The result was beautiful, and solidified the brand as cultural force, and design leader.  I still keep a copy on my desk.  And, most recently, the AMV BBDO Department of Transport “THINK” campaign in the UK, painting messages like “slow down” on sheep in rural country areas as “billboards” to encourage safe driving on narrow country roads (no sheep were harmed in the process).

Marketing truly does reward the brave. As my former boss, Joe Grimaldi used to say “Safe is Risky“.  If you’re using traditional media in traditional ways, you may see a pay off, or, more likely, you may get lost in the noise.  But, creativity is always rewarded in this business.  Go ahead, break the rules.

About Us: Moco Global is a marketing advisory firm dedicated to helping web companies build their brand and scale in the US and International markets. Visit us at or on Twitter for marketing news, trends and insights on web companies around the world.

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