Media Redefined: Why underarm serves don’t win tennis matches
by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) The trick to media presentations is articulating what brands are trying to achieve and how they are going to do it. It seems simple but, too often, tactics (the how) are discussed first and strategy (the what) is, at best, retrofitted. The result is normally failed campaigns.
Nadal vs Kyrgios
The Wimbledon final was brilliant, but the best match this year was Rafa Nadal vs Nick Kyrgios. It was a classic. Poster Boy vs Bad Boy. Fifteen-time Major winner vs a huge unfulfilled talent with no majors and a very bad attitude. In the first two sets, it was clear Kyrgios had decided on two tactics to get the better of the Nadal:
- Complain to the umpire as much as possible about how long he was taking to serve.
- Take advantage of how deep he received a serve and try the legal, but unsportsmanlike, underarm serve.
For a while, he succeeded. Kyrgios won the second set and Nadal admitted afterwards that he became flustered and lost concentration. It was brilliant and compelling viewing, and the crowd loved it. Nadal, however, had a tried-and-tested strategy and was more than mentally tough enough. He stuck to his long-term game plan and the game slowly turned in his favour. When it was all over, it felt like it had never really been in doubt. Nadal knew what he was doing and wore him down in a way that was not immediately obvious.
Kyrgios had some brilliant tactics but the man with the better strategy won.
My first media brief
I still remember my first media brief from a client. I was a fresh graduate, high on the idealistic and intellectual world I had studied in, and certain that I’d be given business problems to solve with smart thinking and ideas. I stared in shock as the client listed the media he wanted to be on, the stations and titles that he felt would work and exactly how much money I could spend on each medium.
I capitulated and did as I was told.
I did soon learn that it was vital to push back at the briefing that my revert might or might not include the proposed tactics. My war against tactic prescriptive briefs has never abated. I like to see every media presentation as telling a story. And, like a good story, it needs a proper set up and overall theme. Too often, I see presentations which jump straight into the tactical detail. A story can’t be understood by only reading a few chapters.
Strategy vs tactics
Why the obsession with trying to separate strategy and tactics? Strategy is defined as “a plan designed to achieve a long-term or overall plan”, tactics as “an action planned to achieve a specific end”. Strategy thinks long-term, tactics short-term.
Every media presentation should lay out both a smart long-term strategy and high-impact, short-term tactics. Smart tactics may certainly make inroads, but underarm serves won’t win a tennis match.
Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to MarkLives.com.