Media in Canada Forum represents

Industry delegates discuss the evolution of media planning in today's economic climate. Aegis's Sarah Faye calls for people-centred models that use new technologies to create continual marketing.

Over 200 industry delegates attended an afternoon of big media thinking at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts yesterday at the Media in Canada Forum, MC’d by Marketel/McCann Erickson media planners Luis Areas and Paolo Pazzia (both selected to represent Canada in this year’s Young Media Lions Competition in Cannes).

Cannes media judge and Genesis Vizeum president Annette Warring kicked off the day with a look at ‘The Best of the Best of the Best’ media executions recognized at Cannes this year after urging industry delegates to take awards submissions more seriously. ‘I don’t believe that Cannes was the best of the best,’ she said of the 2,000 entries she judged, explaining that the majority of 2007 winners were creative agency submissions.

‘I’m not saying that creative agencies were better than media departments or media companies in creating integrated campaigns,’ said Warring. ‘But I do believe they’re better at entering awards, because they take awards more seriously, they hold themselves more accountable to it and they’re better at bragging about it than we are.’

Highlighting breakthrough ideas that improved the bottom line, one of the media biz’s brightest minds, Sarah Fay, CEO of Aegis Media North America, the newly merged Carat USA and Carat Fusion, presented the ‘View from the Very, Very Top.’

‘The [US] market is being shaken in ways that we would have never thought possible. We have to have our heads about us as we move into this unsettling period,’ said Fay, pointing to the importance of doing things differently. ‘When the economy contracts, a lot of marketers go into their cocoons and do what they know is comfortable. CPMs are going up, GRPs are going down. The fact is that the market is delivering less for more, so we can’t continue to do the same thing and expect better results.’

Fay suggests thinking about the consumer first, rather than beginning with the product. ‘We don’t have the opportunity of creating mass anymore – media has become so fragmented that the consumer makes the choices of what media to surround themselves in,’ said Fay. ‘We have to be very specific about the people we are trying to reach and understand so much more about them, because not only is it hard to reach them, but they don’t want to be reached. Technology is working in the interest of the consumer: they can skip past commercials and receive only the messages they want.’

Thinking of consumers as active elements of a marketing campaign, and campaigns as ‘living and breathing things’ that last much longer than something that is launched, builds and dies is a philosophy Fay says the industry needs to adopt to get through these hard times. ‘It is true for every form of marketing and media: the best brands are those that tell the best stories. But the brands of tomorrow are going to be the ones whose consumers tell the best stories about them.

‘You can actually start to use technology to your advantage and leverage it in ways that draw the consumer in deeper and create time with them; talking through the consumer is a much more powerful vehicle than telling our stories directly to the consumer,’ says Fay.

John Torre, VP of the Millward Brown Media Group in New York, discussed how different media can be integrated most effectively into campaigns to optimize spending and outlined ways to evaluate cost-effective combinations of media. And Toad Stool creative strategist Alan Wolk shared his perspective on lesser brands that make the critical mistake of entering the social media space with the assumption that they can enjoy the cult-like following of Nike or Apple. In his ‘Your Brand is not my Friend’ presentation, Wolk said: ‘If a brand wants to play a role, it has to be asked into the community, it has to find a way to really show the people who are participating that it is a part of their world.’

And the winner of strategy‘s Next Media Star was revealed. An industry vote named Zed Digital account supervisor Danny Shenkman this year’s top new talent, based on his AOL takeover campaign efforts for the DVD launch of The Simpsons Movie.