Agencies should embrace print for storytelling: BMF

Print is an ideal medium for long-form storytelling in advertising, which agencies have been slow to embrace, according to the newly-appointed planning director at creative agency BMF, Hugh Munro.

Newspapers are generally consumed in a positive frame of mind when readers are open to conversation. This makes them a good fit for thought-provoking campaigns that evolved over time, Mr Munro told The Newspaper Works.

“I’m not sure it’s been done really well recently by anyone, but it’s something we’ll be looking at.”

However, clients were often focused on digital strategy at the expense of print, he said – meaning there was a gap in the amount of thought put into planning digital campaigns versus print campaigns, hampering the potential for long-form, long-term print executions.

“Clients want to know their digital strategy in a lot of depth because their bosses are going to be asking them what their digital strategy is,” Mr Munro said.

“No-one’s going to be asking them what their print strategy is.”

Mr Munro’s role as a creative planner is separate to, but intersects with, the role of channel planners at media buying agencies.

That separation is becoming less significant as agencies of both types undergo an industry-wide transition, in the same way publishers are. Old barriers are being broken down and both creative and channel planners need to share skills, Mr Munro says.

“In the old days, [creative] planning would write a creative brief and hand that over to creative people, and then they would come up with ideas and execute a campaign, and the media agency would go and book the media and that would be the end of that.”

This was changing, he said. Channel planners were cutting right through that process and working much more closely with creatives.  “And sometimes not even writing a brief, but just having conversations throughout,” Mr Munro said.

“Because it’s not like you just come back 18 months later and ask did it work … you can optimise things pretty quickly.”

Publishers should be taking advantage of recognisable personalities to market their product outside the medium itself, he said, in the same way that radio networks and TV stations do. The focus should be not just on news, but on the influencers that readers trust.

“Print needs to hold onto that level of trust, because in the same way that you go to radio and TV for entertainment you’re going to go to print for a trusted point of view.”

He said that print media was critical for advertisers who want to take advantage of the trust that readers have in newspapers, but that such trust is a double-edged sword for publishers who must not betray their audience.

“Publishers have a real duty to their readers to make it clear what is editorial and what is not. And the more they lose that trust I think they lose the thing that people actually come to them for,” Mr Munro said.

However, creative agencies were generally less focused on native advertising than “the buzz in the trade press” around it would suggest. “If you look back at the work BMF’s done, the best work, is stuff that people want to watch anyway.

“If you do a good enough job, you can do it without feeling like you’re deceiving people.”

Video by Eliza Goetze, story by Declan Gooch

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