Embracing subjectivity

I recently sat in a joint media and creative presentation where a senior client asked the media agency to justify why this was the right channel mix and use of budget. He then turned to the creative agency and asked which of their three options they liked the most.

On the surface this was fine. Media decisions have numbers to justify them whilst creative decisions are far more subjective. But on reflection, I think that the obsession of media agencies (and clients) on finding a single right answer each time is holding back the industry.

Let’s be honest, most media decisions are far more subjective than we would like. Measurement systems are different for each channel, tracking across device is far from accurate, and survey data is based on the claims of ‘people who fill out surveys’ – a unique breed in themselves. Can you hand on heart say that this in-store activation will deliver more in the long run than that TV sponsorship? Of course you can’t, and shouldn’t, but we have trained clients to think we should.

Rather than see this as a negative, we should embrace the subjectivity of media in the same way that creative agencies do; particularly with the world of media changing so rapidly.

The danger of seeking just one solution every time, rather than alternatives to be debated, is that it can make us less brave and less willing to embrace the innovation needed in today’s environment.

The failure to push boundaries – every time, to question the brief – every time, to offer alternatives – every time, leads to safe and unmemorable campaigns. It also leads to clients who leave to find newer, braver thinking; even if they have only embraced safe solutions in the past.


I love this quote from Zuckerberg that says, “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy guaranteed to fail is not taking risks”.

So as we navigate the changing media, tech & consumer landscapes, let’s all (clients and agencies) embrace the subjectivity that comes with bravery & innovation; and always remember that just because something is countable, it doesn’t mean it is accountable.

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