As the summer rushes by and we start preparing for the fall, it’s a good time to brush up on the basics of media planning and buying.
We all know that the world of media has changed. We no longer simply plan and buy against three linear TV networks, a handful of magazines and newspapers, and some radio stations. It's a lot more complicated now and sometimes it seems like we have a whole new jargon dictionary to deal with, including terms that we never used to think about, from viewability and brand safety to over-the-top (OTT) and programmatic buying.
Consumers are at the heart of this change. While their media consumption has, indeed, shifted considerably over the past five or 10 years, our task as media experts really remains the same. That is, we still seek to deliver our clients' brand messages to the right people at the right moment in the right place. Those targets and moments and places have all shifted, so we now have a broader media palette from which to choose. It's not just "TV"; it's linear versus OTT versus connected. It's no longer "radio"; it's traditional versus digital audio versus podcasts.
Yet, for all the focus on the new and the now, some fundamentals should not be forgotten. For example, media objectives (which are still typically defined in terms of reach and frequency) need to be aligned with a brand's broader advertising and marketing objectives. Understanding the consumer journey or path to purchase continues to be critical to campaign success. And measurement, both of media audience delivery and campaign outcomes, is not only more important than ever, but also more attainable.
Given all of that, here are a few thoughts about the ABCs of today's media planning and buying.
- Activation. Have you ever wondered how media buying happens today? That is, once the perfect plan has been developed and enthusiastically approved by the client, and targeted, relevant ad messages are created, then what?
Today's media buying is increasingly automated. In most digital media channels, that means fully programmatic, where volumes of information about potential audiences, from first- or third-party sources, are gathered in a data management platform (DMP). Ad exchanges aggregate data across DMPs and allow buyers to bid on the inventory available through demand-side platforms (DSPs), with a specific ad unit sold to the highest bidder.
Even traditional media, including linear TV, now allows buyers to utilize more data-driven and increasingly automated solutions through ventures such as Hudson MX, OpenAP, and Xandr. By letting software handle the rote tasks of the process, we can focus more on the strategic and human element of media planning and buying.
- Behavior. In the early days of media planning and buying — and, to some extent, even today — we often rely on surrogate measures of what consumers are actually doing. Did our target audience buy our brand of cereal? Let's survey a representative sample of the population and ask them. How many people saw our TV ad on The Bachelor? We look at the percentage of people watching that program who match the age/gender group of our target (again, based on a nationally representative sample panel).
However, what we really want to know — and increasingly can find out — is how many individuals in our target audience who saw our client's ad in the NBA Finals went in-store or online to search for or buy the product? Did those who liked our client's Instagram post show up at a dealership or go see that movie? By focusing more on the behavior part of consumer behavior, we can create more compelling personalized experiences at scale that show how media delivers results for our brands.
- Customer Journey. The notion of using different ads — and different media —to reach consumers at different points in their path to purchase is certainly not new. Traditionally, planners and buyers visualized this journey as a funnel with broad-based, awareness-generating media channels, such as television or magazines, at the top, and direct-response type channels at the bottom, generating an actual sale, such as a coupon in a newspaper or a piece of direct mail.
Today, thanks in large part to digital and social media, it's pretty hard for a new brand to not generate some level of awareness (though not necessarily through paid media). Advances in measurement approaches, such as multitouch attribution, have enabled us to gain a deeper understanding of how media, individually and collectively, can drive business outcomes. We have learned that television is not only good for generating awareness or brand preference, but also for actual store sales. Search is critical for driving people into a store (or e-commerce site) and for enhancing the impact of radio or print ads.
Although our plans and buys may still happen somewhat in media channel silos, it is more important than ever to think holistically about the consumers a brand wants to reach — and do so across multiple platforms.
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