By Jim Hagan

We’ve all been through it. You receive a new strategy brief. You strategize. You plan. You present. You activate. You report. The media landscape today has become very tech-driven from activation to analytics to reporting. Developing media plans can be a very automated process as well. From a media planners’ perspective (me), the tools available can make a go-to-market strategy simple yet calculated.

Unfortunately, in today’s landscape, too many channel silos are created prohibiting strong, holistic media plans to be developed. The need for strategists to understand how data and channel selection work together to deliver brand messaging to a consumer is no longer a reality, it’s a necessity! And most importantly, media planning isn’t just about what goes into a strategy, but also how strategy creates success for brands. Any media plan that doesn’t have a measurement component is set up for failure and wasted media dollars. Yet all these details that are needed for an amazing media plan to take shape, take flight, and perform require partnership from both buyers and brands. This is a two-way relationship. Neither party will have all the answers. Working together in a strategic manner helps formulate both strong bonds, but also thoughtful media executions for the consumer.

In this two-part piece, I am going to walk you through three main ideas central to creating a holistic, end-to-end media plan, including:

  • How to begin the development of a strong media plan
  • Understanding the need for cohesive strategy and channel mix
  • The importance of incorporating measurement framework to support your media plan

So, with that – let’s go!

Find Time to Align!

This should come as no surprise but understanding the client’s goal for a specific initiative is paramount for developing a successful plan. It’s crucial for planners and brands to take a breath, step back and put the wheels in motion for alignment regardless of any urgency. Without goals there is no foundation for measurable strategy. But just as important is understanding the target, tools and assets you have at your disposal. What type of consumer are you trying to influence? What kind of primary data will you have access to? What creative assets are in play? What types of creative assets is the brand willing to put effort and funds against to create? These answers are key players in impacting a media plan – there will be no personalization if there is no data and there will be a lack of alignment if your media channel strategy doesn’t comply with the assets that will be available.

Choose Your Channels Wisely…

Now, we know that some brands may have strong opinions on favored channels. This could be rooted in personal preference, outdated modeling, but hopefully the fondness is rooted in some sort of data-driven insight. Some clients will leave it up to planners to determine the mix of channel efforts. Great! This just got much easier…or did it give you more room for developing a random, fragmented strategy with some of the new, cooler channels you’ve read about? Either way, you must decide where and how you will spend their marketing dollars.

The foundation of anything holistic is interconnectivity. In the realm of advertising, the interconnection of messaging resonating with consumers and media consumption is vital. The ultimate sweet spot of strategy is not only understanding where your audience spends most of their time, but also where they want to connect with advertising. Per eMarketer every channel aside from TV and print has and is forecasted to experience media consumption growth between 2019 and 2021. Change is constant in channel consumption, yet many media planners aren’t asking the questions, which channels does my target audience consume the most AND which of those channels are they most open to the idea of interacting with brand messaging and advertising? Now, I can’t say I blame them – in my many years of media planning with many types of brands, seldom are there tools to tell you which media channels will be most receptive to interacting with advertising. Of course, there are media models creating outputs determining which channels should be used. Some argue those models are outdated or weight different channels more favorably over others. But regardless, these tools and models are not informing media planners what & where those channels should be bought. The key next step in a holistic media plan is to leverage advanced analytics and data to inform you how to craft your media strategy. There are not many tools built in the landscape to strategically tell you to buy this channel in one cluster of geography over that channel in another cluster, so imagine these two scenarios:

  • You have a slightly older demographic in a rural area who consumes much more traditional media channels, who seek out promotions with brands, products and services.
  • Compare this to just a 15-minute drive to the north where you’re within a very suburban city center where this more affluent, younger demographic consumes media in a much different way.

Typically, you’re buying local media channels that you think will fit the best without truly understanding why or asking the question, is this how consumers want to interact with the brands they love? It sounds hard because it is hard. If I were to ask what’s your preference on selecting media channels based on how consumers interact and engage vs. buying the same media channel(s) regardless of market nuances and consumer make-up, what would the answer be?

That’s rhetorical. We all know that answer. The point here is to seek out and use data and analytics to inform strategy. We believe that every consumer & household has its own story. What’s your story?

To recap, work on goals, data and assets. Next, work with advanced analytics to drive strategic planning decisions.

Let’s pause until next week for the continuation.