Media Plans Provide Clues on The Power of Social - Bonnie Kintzer

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Every year, as a marketing and media services company, we monitor client-planning trends as well as how those mirror trends in the greater marketplace. Recently, I shared our observation that with our clients, social has increasingly become the "spark" within the media mix of choice. That not only is social in the mix a majority of the time – it is driving it. We've long believed that this is an indicator of what is going on in the marketplace at large. Social as a whole has been busy proving itself and growing in favor.

So, in Online Media Daily last week, we were fascinated to spot a few affirmations in research released by Strata, the agency media software and processing firm owned by Comcast. This research showed that social has finally overtaken search and is expected to soon eclipse display, as the "focus" by most media planners at agencies, when developing client media plans. After all, with their hands on many of the purse strings, it is with this group that social has had to prove itself. This idea of social "focus" in planning is exactly what we have been seeing in the strong social orientation of all our plans.

"Social media has surpassed search, and is poised to overtake online display advertising as the No. 1 source of digital media planning and buying [as far as planning preference or intent to include] , according to the latest edition of a quarterly survey of U.S. advertising agencies. The survey […] found that 69% of agency executives now consider social the "focus" of their digital ad spending -- up 32% over the past year, and now a close second behind display (71%) as the dominant digital media-buying platform in the minds of agency executives."

These are important stats – illustrating a market shift we've all been feeling over the past couple years. Planner preference absolutely has long been an indicator in our industry. For the better part of the last decade, charts like this have shown that when asked their preference at the outset of a planning season, planners tend to point to email, search and display as top choices. For example, eMarketer has long published such a chart, essentially ranking planners' media type choices and their intentions for the year ahead. It's a handy chart, because in some ways, it's a predictor of likely industry spend and revenue trending, for the coming year by media type, for all of us. We take notice of these rankings, because agencies have so much influence over spending.

The Path to Media Preference is Paved with Intentions

But, with digital, as we know, once a media plan is established, that's just the beginning. We go to work optimizing it – shifting placements, allocations and dialing in the mix, based on performance. So, if we are in the planning position, what we ultimately see over the course of the year sways how we answer questions about our intentions, and where we plan to place our bets, in the following year.

The main reason that any given media type rises up on this type of ranking – is because it delivers. This "delivery" may amount to brand visibility, share of voice, click or other conversion volume, when it comes to display. Or, direct response performance and efficient cost per conversions, when it comes to email and search – old favorites by planners charged with those goals and metrics. So, why is social climbing for preference?

We like social because when thoughtfully executed it allows marketers to pursue awareness and performance objectives all at once.It allows a brand to extend a mix – by working a core social concept across platforms, threading it all together. And, certainly, as it pertains to women, whose lives are increasingly not only more social but more cross-platform – the ability to leverage a cohesive socially driven mix is appealing. When it comes to women, we are expecting a lot out of social, in all its varieties.

But, as Social Matures, So Must the Analysis

To really get a clear picture of what's happening with social spend trending – we'll need to get a bit more granular. When referencing or ranking any media type, the specific methods do matter. We've gradually seen this same improved breakout on industry charts and spending reports for display, search, and all media types in the mix. The same needs to happen for social. As we all become better acquainted with social approaches, we will need the detail

As an industry over time, as we think about these stats on what planners are choosing – and "social" rising to overshadow display, search, email and others – it is important to know which methods are achieving what, and what kind of place they are earning on planning budgets, as a result. This is all part of social proving its value and maturing as an approach.

Bonnie Kintzer is Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Marketing Inc. the authority on how women consume media. Women’s Marketing Inc. services more than 300 clients in the beauty, fashion and health space by delivering the best integrated advertising solutions in digital, print and out-of-home. Bonnie has built a distinguished career in the media world with a strong focus on revenue creation and reengineering. Bonnie can be reached at

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