New partnerships are triumphing over adversarial approach

Is there a new division amongst media owners between whether they’re locked into the traditional trading and adversarial relationships with agencies and clients or whether they’re open to more of a partnership based approach?  There’s lots of signs of it.  This division is usually linked into how integrated their commercial and business approach is with their editorial.

The Larry Sanders Show is one of the best TV programmes ever about media, aired in the 1990s but still fresh today. Its a sitcom about a fictional American chat show host.  It launched with an episode which focussed on what happens if the talent is forced to become commercial.  The network management insists that Larry does a commercial within the show.    Larry ends up mocking the product – the Garden Weasel – and refuses to stick to the script.  There is a huge and very funny showdown with the network management,  Larry wins, and is never asked to stoop to such base commercialism ever again.

It wasn’t that long ago that this ivory tower approach was the only way to do business.  Creative types focussed on the product, commercial types flogged ad space.  If the two groups met up the red carpets were rolled out for the former by the latter.

There’s a change going on.  There is every sign that the gulf that previously existed between talent and sales has been bridged, and that it has been bridged in a win/win way.

Several things have contributed to the new approach.  First a good deal of mutual respect.  Editorial teams now have a better commercial understanding than they used to and are contributing to the selling of content based on their unique understanding of the audiences that they create for in the first place.  And media agencies and sales teams have a good deal of respect for that expertise.  But equally editorial people are less fearful that media sales teams, agencies or indeed clients want to them to prostitute their creativity.

No-one in their right mind has any interest in producing editorial content that simply parrots a press release and will alienate the consumer.  But content that will fascinate the consumer and that gratifies their interest in compelling brands or indeed advertising can boost audiences all round.  When Shortlist featured the making of the Terminator movie they fed their readers curiosity about the making of the film.  When Paddy Power himself appears on TalkSport their listeners feel like they’re getting top tips from the man who really knows.

If branded content is commercialised appropriately there is no betrayal of trust.  If its done well, all parties – the brand, the media owner and the consumer can benefit.

There are however instances where editorial and commercial closeness is still regarded as taboo.  It will be interesting to see if the old guard will continue to be able to hold out as partnerships triumph over the old adversarial ways of doing business.

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