Media Plan of the Year ’08

It’s no secret that we live in a huge media fishbowl, rendered bigger and even more full of life with the advent of consumer-generated content. That reality is really starting to spill over into the world of media planners, who we honor and celebrate with this year’s installment of our Media Plan of the Year awards. At least three of the winning plans consciously chose the path they did with the hope and expectation that other media would be interested and offer coverage (read: free impressions). Take MediaCom’s decision to plaster the front end of a Volkswagen Jetta on a billboard in the outfield at Shea Stadium and other cathedrals of baseball. The MediaCom team estimates that the move yielded some $4 million in free exposure. Both Digital winners (yes, it’s an historic year, as we accommodate two standout plans in this red-hot sector) — Neo@Ogilvy, recognized for its use of widgets to promote the Halloween-themed Fright Fest at client Six Flags, and ZenithOptimedia, honored for creating wikis and egging on bloggers to discuss client Hewlett Packard’s new gaming system — knew they’d get pickup, and counted on it to help deliver results.

The fact is, media planners typically labor behind the plastic seaweed of the fishbowl. But all of this year’s winners are Big Fish to us. Congratulations!

Spending Over $25 Million: PHD

Spending $10-25 Million: Carat

Spending Under $10 Million: MediaHub/Mullen

Spending $1 Million or Less: Spark Communications

Best Use of National TV and Cable: Deutsch

Best Use of Local TV and Cable: Media Kitchen

Best Use of Print: Maxus

Best Use of Radio: Horizon Media

Best Use of Out-of-Home: MediaCom

Best Use of Digital: Neo@Ogilvy

Best Use of Digital: ZenithOptimedia

Best Use of Mobile: GSD&M

Best Use of Nontraditional: Starcom

Spending Over $25 Million: PHD

By Anthony Crupi

The human tendency to anthropomorphize the creatures that share the world with us, to project our own behaviors and motives onto the furry beasts that roam the plains and scuttle around the jungle floor, probably has its roots in the development of the neocortex. In imagining how other species experienced their environment, Homo sapiens were able to anticipate animal behavior, which, in turn, allowed early man to assume his place at the top of the food chain.

Today, there are more than six billion higher brains mucking around the planet, and while relatively few of them are engaged in any sort of predator-prey dynamic, human fascination with the animal kingdom remains steadfast. Last spring, Discovery Channel stirred that age-old affinity with its 11-hour documentary series Planet Earth, a transformative introduction to the wonders of the natural world that is at once epic in its scope and jaw-dropping in its evocation of tellurian splendor.

Eggheaded exegesis aside, Planet Earth certainly excites a wealth of visceral responses as well. Cute things romp. Monstrous things chomp.

Inevitably, because nature is more bloody-minded than fair, the cute gets chomped by the monstrous. And as the backdrop to all the struggle, there’s always the Northern Lights or the vast expanse of Antarctic ice to make the observer feel at once a part of the tableau and yet wholly alien to the scene and what takes place there.

Try getting all that in a 30-second spot.

Remarkably, the keen (and not at all predatory) neocortices at PHD managed that unlikely feat, one reason they’ve earned the Media Plan of the Year in Spending $25 Million or more. Because the pictures Planet Earth filmmakers were able to capture over the course of their five-year shoot could speak far more eloquently than any mere ad copy, the PHD team allowed those visuals to do all the heavy lifting. But it is how they deployed those load-bearing images that took the campaign to the next level.