If the goal of advertising is communication, then media planning is communicating with the right people at the right time.
Media planning is one of the four key disciplines in advertising (account management, brand strategy, creative production, and media planning). It’s a challenging process that requires determining the most appropriate media vehicle for advertising the client’s product or service. There are five key steps to building a solid media plan: determining the marketing objectives, defining the media objectives, choosing the appropriate media strategy, vehicle selection, and evaluation.
Determining the marketing objective
As an advertising agency, this step actually falls outside our scope of work, but that’s okay – you probably already know what your marketing objective is. Traditionally, the marketing objective is developed by the client’s CMO based on their business and sales objectives, strategies for the upcoming year, initiatives, and research or industry trends. Examples of marketing objectives might be, “increase revenue by 20%” or “launch a new product.”
Defining the media objective
This step is where an advertising agency really has a chance to dig into the work. As we define the media objectives, we start to ask questions like:
- Which target audience will be most receptive to an advertisement?
- How can we reach the target audience?
- What are our reach and frequency goals?
- Should we use a continuous, flighting, or pulsing strategy?
Media planners use databases like MRI+, Kantar, comScore, and Nielson to answer these questions. We are the only people who can tell you how much you need to spend to achieve critical levels of reach (how many people see your advertisement) and frequency (how many times they see it) necessary to drive sales. The media planner decides how much of your budget should be spent in what places in order to reach certain segments of your target market.
Choosing an appropriate media strategy
Settling on a strategy requires considering a variety of factors:
- Where? Are there geographical considerations we should take into account? Maybe your target audience tends to live in big cities. Maybe they live in England. Unless you’re Coca-Cola, you’ll have to narrow down the geographies to which you send your advertising.
- When? Are there timing or seasonality considerations? It’s futile to spend on advertising swimming pool repair in the winter. If there are timing considerations, and we chose a flighted or a pulsed schedule as one of our media objectives, we will align our flights with the appropriate times.
- What? The media mix, the combination of channels that will work best for your product, is the final choice we make before finding specific vehicles within those channels.
Media tactics and media vehicle selection
Next, we determine what vehicles might be appropriate for reaching the audience. Examples of media vehicles might be talk radio during drive time, Facebook promoted posts, :15 second spots on The View, or direct mail. Each vehicle will be more or less suited to reaching the target audience, and each will have its own cost-per-thousand to consider. Developing a robust media vehicle strategy requires more than one type of media. Remember – Pay Per Click advertising is just one of dozens of potential ways to reach customers, and it’s not always the best!
In addition to selecting vehicles, the media planning team is also tasked with developing additional promotions that we can use to help drive your sales. An example of a promotion would be offering coupons via newspaper inserts or direct mail.
Execute, evaluate, adjust
Media planning is a process. As your plan continues throughout the year, it will be necessary to evaluate its effectiveness and adjust budgets. It’s incredibly rare, if not impossible, to land on the most optimal strategy right out of the gate, and analytics allow us to learn from what’s working for your specific brand and product and adjust as necessary. It’s also important to stay agile so that we can capitalize on unexpected opportunities – like those provided by public relations or media coverage – and it’s good practice to set aside 10% or 20% of your total budget (depending on its side) as floating cash.