Some of the smartest minds in digital media, and the advertising industry as a whole, are currently working on solving the problem: How do we better target messaging in a way that leverages data to get the right messages in front of the right people at the right time?

The work that they’re producing is amazing, from programmatic ad buying, to realtime bidding and content distribution networks.

There’s a major flaw, though

No matter how smart the placement or how sophisticated the tracking, it’s still a damn banner ad.

When we see banner ads, we don’t care how clever the targeting is, we’re always going to be at least mildly annoyed.

That is, unless the creative itself is so badass that it wins our attention over the very content that we want to the page to look at, and that’s a hell of a hill to climb.

What’s the alternative?

The problem is not with the places that we’re buying media, it’s the way that we’ve set up our relationship with it.

Right now there are hundreds of marketing managers out there buying millions of dollars of ads. They are correctly staffed for the old world of media: Make some billboards, buy the billboards, sit back and watch the impressions roll in.

But they are not staffed for the new world: Create something dope that people can’t wait to share with their friends, distribute that stuff on channels that want to tell your story, and develop the relationships that will make it all possible.

Whether your annual marketing budget is $10,000 or $10,000,000, you will be significantly better off if you consider this one fact: Great content gets shared. That sharing equals dramatically more and better impressions than an ad platform can offer. Therefore the best media plan starts with great people who make stuff the people can’t wait to see.

Where the geniuses are focusing all of their attention trying to convince brands to dump their budgets into super-intelligent algorithms and platforms, that misses out on the fundamental point of what we do: Telling stories to people. When those stories are real and, even better, passed on by a trusted friend or news source, then the depth of that interaction becomes something more valuable than 100 skin-deep brand impressions.

Better Media

My hope is that the media department of the future looks nothing like the marketing manager with her credit card of today, and much more like a creative studio dedicated to creating, because that will ultimately be so much of what actually moves our companies forward.

Are you into this stuff? If so, you should really sign up for the Socil Brief – it’s quick update about the world of social and digtial that I send out every Monday