As we all know, there are 3 kinds of media.

Usually, when we evaluate a new campaign, we should judge how it works in all 3 media.

These are: Paid-For Media, Owned Media, and Earned Media.

But most people only really know the first kind.

Paid-For Media is the obvious kind, all the conversations here involve media companies.

This is where the money is, but it isn’t very creative – the conversation here is: “This is how much money we’ve got, how much media can we buy for it?”

That is the beginning and end of most people’s understanding of media.

Which is why most advertising dies as soon as the money is spent.

It has no life beyond Paid-For Media.

The second kind of media doesn’t involve media companies.

It is called Owned Media, which means every space the client doesn’t have to pay for.

It might be: websites, point-of-sale, trucks, letterheads, staff badges, window-displays, packaging, newsletters, any space you own.

All of this is free media that the client could use, and if it isn’t used it’s wasted.

Then there’s the third kind of media: Earned Media.

Again, this doesn’t involve the media companies because there’s no money in it for them.

This is the media that only exists if your campaign gets talked about.

The more it gets noticed the more it gets talked about, the more it gets talked about the more it gets noticed.

In the street, at work, on the news, in the papers, online.

This is the free media that a great campaign will provide.

If this is what’s wanted, the ads need to be written and judged with this in mind.

If there is no controversy, if it’s safe and dull, it won’t get noticed or talked about.

The idea of Earned Media is dead before you start.

By playing it safe we waste the possibility of all that space in the consumer’s mind.

Similarly with Owned Media.

If you don’t carry the campaign through on every possible piece of space you own, you’ve wasted all that Owned Media.

So, by being lazy and expecting Paid-For media to do the entire job on its own, we waste at least two-thirds of the media possibilities.

We assume all media is simply the part that we pay media companies for, and we leave the entire job of media up to them.

We spend the money then sit back and wait, Paid-For Media.

It never occurs to us that we have access to media that no one else has any access to: Owned Media.

Or that we could create enough Earned Media to bury our competitor’s media spend.

Instead we end up with a safe, dull campaign that takes no risks, and we don’t commit to it by running it everywhere in case it doesn’t work.

Then, when the money’s spent, we’re surprised it didn’t work.

Of course, the real difference is that two of these media are physical, the space to run the advertising actually exists: Paid-For Media and Owned Media.

The third kind: Earned Media, doesn’t exist unless and until we create it.

Earned Media depends on people wanting to talk about the ads, or news media wanting to feature it, because the ads get into the language.

Unlike the other two media this can’t be added in later, you can’t take a boring campaign and spend more money running it in more places.

The most valuable media of all is Earned Media.

And we can’t buy space in this media with money, we have to use our brains.