January 28, 2007

Planning and Producing a Media Product: Part 1

Planning Your Advertising Campaign


It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this unit for the OCR AS level from an educational perspective. This unit gives you the opportunity to work through all the aspects of planning ANY media product bringing the product to fruition and learning how to consider it as a pilot project by testing it out on the audience to prove that it is a good product and by providing you with the necessary evidence to show any potential commissioning body that your product is worth backing.

Advertising and Commissioning

Let's take a step backwards for a moment and think specifically about the advertising industry which (like it or not & I don't) forms an important part of the media industry.  Most of the media industry is dependent upon advertising and has been since the beginnings of the growth of mass media in the 19th century.

Advertising is commisssioned on a commercial basis. The financing can come from a variety of sources including government agencies, industry and commerce and independent charitable organisations.  Whatever the source of finance the commissioning organisation will want the best possible value for its money. It will want to reach it's target audience both in the content of the adverts and in terms of whether this advertising is designed to go in the right places.

A Commissioning Brief

Many organisations who want to run an advertising campaign will put an advertising brief *out to tender*. The advertising brief will ask advertising companies to compete with each other to win an advertising contract which could be worth a lot of money and also the potential to gain future business it it is a successful campaign.

Imagine you work for an Advertising Company

Imagine you work for an advertising company and you are responsible for making a presentation to a charity which will reward the winning company with a £100,000 contract to try and reduce smoking amongst teenagers.

The first thing you should do is research other advertising products and campaigns. While you are doing this ask yourself the following questions based upon the master question _Why is it that teenagers persist in taking up smoking?_ This is an important question because despite considerable pressure through advertising and trying to tighten up laws on selling tobacco to young people and tightening the laws on smoking in pubs and with change in the law regarding the minimum age for smoking likely to be passed it is still a serious problem.

Lets just consider the current disincentives to smoking:

  • Its extremely expensive. Students can't afford the price of essential equipment such as USB drives yet can apparently afford to smoke!
  • The short-term, medium-term and long-term health risks are very well known and very well documented.
  • Higher rates of smoking and dramatically increased rates of mortality are centered amongst poorer families who also have much worse diets because they claim they "cannot afford" good quality food
  • Kissing a smoker is very unpleasant if you are not a smoker.
  • Rooms smell disgusting the next day even when only a few cigarettes have been smoked.
  • Large numbers of fires causing loss of life, serious burns and enormous damage to property are caused by cigarette smokers.
  • The cost of treating smoking related ilness is an enormous burden upon the NHS. Large amounts of money could be spent far more effectively on developing new treatments for 'real diseases' and medical problems or put into better sports facilities etc to promote healthier lifestyles.

On the surface then, no vaguely rational person would even consider smoking. The fact that many apparently rational people do smoke is therefore the issue that the clever advertiser will focus upon.

Smoking and Desire

Last Silk Cut Advert

What a good advertising company needs to do is to understand what it is that is making their target audience tick. In this case we are looking at teenagers who take up smoking. what can it possibly be which makes them desire to smoke? This is the fundamental question for an advertiser. Once they have some ideas about this then they can design a campaign with counter-messages and alternative packages of desire.

The functioning of desire should not be seen as anti-reason. The social and cultural desires which contribute to the culture of smoking are inherently resonable. On the surface smoking seems to offer a fairly straightforward way of developing ways of communicating with people.

The idea that advertising can manipulate desire so effectively eventualy led to a ban on cigarette advertising by the government which came into force in 2003. Click here for a BBC story on the coming of this ban.

Know Your Enemy!

Shrewd tacticians and strategists try to know everything they can about their enemy.

The tobacco industry has built itself up on the basis of appealing to unconscious desires. Sexy, a sense of rebelliousness, glamour, creating a sense of a smoking community through social interactions which can cross class / gender / ethnic divides, associations with celebrity,a sense of adulthood.

There is then a deeply embedded cultural milieu of smoking. The fact that I have mentioned the term a sense of... several times shows you that these these cultural factors within our lives are hard to quantify and measure in a meaningful way. These factors are therefore more powerfully persuasive than the logical factors of health, expense etc. which anti-smoking has concentrated upon.

Looking into a history of the smoking industry you would quickly be able to identify that at one time issues of class, status and gender were associated with smoking.

From a class perspective being able to afford to smoke (literally burning up your money), was important. Then particular brands became more important in terms of class and status as the ability to afford to smoke became more common. 

In terms of gender at one stage the notion of women smoking was extremely threatening to men who in better off society would withdraw to the smoking room after dinner to have male power conversations whilst women who at that time couldn't vote also couldn't smoke.

The right to smoke in public therefore started to become associated with women's rights and rebellion against the system. Advertisers were quick to pick up on this. As the smoking market became increasingly saturated as most men at some point were smoking the attractions of doubling the smoking market by getting women to smoke became very attractive to the tobacco companies.

A nephew of Sigmund Freud's was a senior executive in an advertising company and he arranged an incident when several upper class American Women on a 4th of July parade would start to smoke in public. Of course the press had been informed that something significant was going to happen on this parade and the subsequent media publicity on all the front pages was the launch of dozens of successful advertising campaigns glamourising smoking for women.   

For an advertising company the enemy is all previous advertising campaigns which have helped to foster a culture of smoking. Previous advertising campaigns have made smoking glamourous, a symbol of status, a symbol of elegance, a symbol of machismo, a symbol of sexual attractiveness, a symbol of power, a symbol of sexiness or even just associating the act of smoking with being "Adult". A BBC story from 2003 notes:

bq. The UK's second largest cigarette firm Gallaher, makers of Silk Cut and Benson and Hedges, now prints "For Adult Use Only" on every pack.

Frequently these campaigns have relied purely primarily on powerful visual messages which are associative and work at an unconscious level. Film stars , leading politicians, "celebrities" even sports personalities have in the past been associated with smoking. Smoking equals success seems to have been the underlying message.

The advertising aesthetics have in the case of Benson and Hedges been held up as models of good advertising. Often the cigarette brand is signified by the aesthetic rather than 'in yer face' kinds of promotion:

Benson and Hedges Pure Gold

Restrictions on advertising means that Brands known only for cigarettes are using other techniques to build their brand. the Marlborough brand owned by Philip Morris have done this as the BBC has also noted:

bq. In recent years, tobacco companies have branched out into clothing and lifestyle products to build brand awareness. Marlboro launched a range of clothing and BAT has experimented with branded coffee shops

Below Silk Cut trying to exude an air of elegance and sophistication

Silk Cut symbol of elegance and sphistication

Being associated with style, elegance sophistication and power places the brand very high ensuring the opportunity to charge a price premium. The sports below manage to be associated with all these highly valued traits:

Silk Cut sponsored racing boat

The Le Mans Winning Jag was also an important method of branding associating cigarettes with success:

Silk Cut Jaguar at Le Mans


In this section you should now begin to recognise that researching the subject which is the subject of your commercial brief is vitally important to the success of your project. You shouldn't just research campaigns against smoking. you may have much to learn from exploring campaigns to encourage smoking. In the next section we will consider how to execute and lay out the overall planning of your project.  

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