The Right Medium

Frank Striefler and Erik Hanson (TBWA\Media Arts Lab)
  • 17 march 2009

Every medium that people use to communicate has a specific language, a unique vernacular, a tone, a set of rules, and an end-user experience that people take into account when they choose to use them. For example, there are things someone might say to a friend online that they would never say on the phone; there are things they would put in an e-mail that they would never put in a text message. It’s become second nature in our media-savvy society to always know where and how to “say it best.” Without really thinking about it, people use different media only for what they’re good at and always choose the right tool for the job for what they want to communicate. And it’s an important lesson for the brands that are trying to communicate with them: every idea has a medium that will tell it best.

Marketers need to put media at the center of everything they do, not at the end as an afterthought. We need to match media opportunities to audience behaviors and make media part of the creative ideas themselves. We need to have a point of view on media, tailoring creative ideas to the strengths and relevance of each medium. It’s not about an off-the-shelf media checklist (a.k.a. lazy man’s integration), it’s about understanding where the best opportunities for your brand stories exist.

World Carfree Day

To promote World Carfree day in São Paulo, one of the most polluted cities in the world, Lew’Lara\TBWA decided to nix traditional outdoor posters and use one of the city’s busiest tunnels for its contextual relevance. They wrote the message “Walk. Ride. Bike. Take the bus. Use the subway for less pollution. 9/22 is World Carfree Day.” by cleaning off the grime caused by car pollution on the tunnel walls. By choosing the right medium for their message, the initiative reached 4 million drivers and generated $6 million in earned media. Recruits in Second life went against the convention of working with headhunters and relying on recruitment ads when its Brussels office was looking for advanced online specialists. Struggling to find top candidates in real life, the agency went where the specialists really live: in Second Life. Setting up the first “real life” job interviews in a virtual world, interviewed 50 candidates and received another 50 offline applications based on the massive press coverage. In one month, all eight positions were filled.

Target Free Friday Nights

Target believes that “good design is right for all of us,” which it brings to life through its brand behavior by “democratizing design” – offering great design for everyone, every day, at low prices. To further demonstrate that design is a priority at Target, the company hosts Target Free Friday Nights at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. This is just one example of the 1,700 free museum days Target sponsors annually at more than 30 museums across the U.S., making art accessible for everyone.

– This newsletter was originally published in March 2008. Media Arts Mondays is produced by Media Arts Lab. You can subscribe to Media Arts Mondays here or download this newsletter here.


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