The mystery of free media
OK planet brains, I need your help.
I was in a meeting the other day, and someone said that we should move the client’s money ‘out of paid media and into free media that are earned or owned’. Everybody concurred, and I must say it seemed to make eminent sense to me too. After all, why would you ever want to pay for something, if you could get it all for free.
My problem is that, as the meeting went on, every time someone gave an example of ‘earned and owned media’ it sounded like you’d have to shell out for it, just like ‘paid media’. Sometimes more.
For instance, when we came to the ‘earned’ variety, there was much talk of ‘social media’. But I think this must have been a mistake because (leaving aside the bigger question as to whether you should use ‘social’ as a ‘medium’ in the first place) everybody knows that creating a consistent presence in that space costs money. Likewise, ‘public relations’ kept cropping up. But everybody knows that great PR (the fantastic stuff that builds reputations and gets people talking – not the churning out of press releases) doesn’t come cheap.
It was the same story when the conversation turned to ‘owned media’. The client in question was a retailer, so the most obvious option here was using the in-store presence. But of course, kitting out all those shops – and then keeping them all fresh – would cost a bomb, so this can’t have been the elusive ‘free media’ that we were supposed to be looking for. Maybe they meant digital assets, but every website, mobile site, app or widget I’ve ever worked on has had to be ‘paid for’ by someone (and then typically advertised on top of that). So again, I was a bit bamboozled.
In the end, I’m ashamed to say I just gave up on the ‘earned’, ‘owned’ and ‘paid for’ distinction and did what I always do: think in terms of ‘media that will work best here’ and ‘media that won’t work here’ (that was another thing I found weird: the whole question of effectiveness never cropped up, during the whole meeting. I guess we must be doing that next week).
By focusing on the output (what would achieve the best result) rather than the input (precisely how it’s paid for) I’m obviously missing a trick. But unless somebody can show me the light, I suppose I’ll just have to muddle along for now.