Media planning has long been one of the more important tasks in advertising.
Before a single ad is run, extensive market research is done to determine which platforms are best to carry the ad campaign being planned out. Media planners evaluate a number of different options and create a strategy for deploying the campaign with the intent of reaching consumers within the campaign’s target demographic.
With the rise of digital marketing and a variety of digital platforms for advertising, media planning has changed significantly in recent decades. Even now, the digital landscape continues to evolve as social media and over-the-top (OTT) content platforms become more popular with consumers.
With these new options available, media planning becomes more important than ever as a media plan must now include not only traditional media outlets but also a range of digital marketing platforms.
Media Planning vs. Media Buying
Care should be taken not to confuse media planning with media buying.
While the two processes are related, media buying is very much a secondary process to media planning. Before a media buyer can start looking for ad slots or negotiating platform advertising costs, they must have a media plan to work from.
Media buying uses the details and recommendations of the media plan as a guide to actually implementing a marketing campaign. Less research and planning goes into the media buying stage, but poor media buying skills can significantly increase the cost of an advertising campaign. Some media buying options are automated, while others may require a significant amount of negotiation to land the ideal ad slots for a campaign.
Defining a Target Audience
The first thing that should be done when developing a media plan is to determine who the target audience is for the product or service being marketed.
This targeting includes a number of aspects such as age, gender and income level, as well as marketing-relevant details such as media habits, social media usage and time spent using mobile devices. This ideal target should come from both internal projections as well as market research to create a more realistic composite of who is most likely to want the product or service being sold.
Some media planners take the ideal target and create an “ideal consumer” to act as a single target for the final campaign. By envisioning the target demographic as an individual consumer with all of the attributes that the campaign will identify with it is sometimes easier to develop a targeted marketing plan. Some marketers find it easier to focus on the attributes of an individual instead of a group of similar individuals; in this case, the assumption is that the marketing plan is targeted directly at this individual avatar and not a broad demographic of consumers.
Defining a Goal
Also important to your media plan is a clear goal for the total advertising campaign.
Though this need is sometimes easy to overlook, without a goal in mind a media planner may focus too much on certain markets and not enough on others. Knowing the desired end result of an ad campaign makes it much easier to plan a campaign that can deliver that result.
Possible goals for a marketing campaign include advertising a sale, announcing a store opening, increasing brand awareness or rolling out a new product. From the diversity of this small selection of goal options you can see how different goals require different approaches.
Research and Planning
With a target and a goal in mind, additional market research is required to determine the best way to convey the goal to the target demographic.
This should include details about the market the ads will be deployed in, trends within the industry the company operates in and details about any competitors or similar products that the marketing will have to account for. The media planner will also need to determine the platforms that the target demographic typically uses to consume media as well as the issues and imagery that the target most identifies with or considers important.
Using this information, the actual media plan can begin to take shape. Details about the demographic and how it consumes media informs the ideal media mix and marketing direction for the plan, while information about the market and competition warns of risks that should be avoided.
The budget for the marketing campaign is weighed against the media plan as it’s developed, allowing the media planner to determine which percentage of the budget should go toward traditional marketing platforms and which percentage is better served targeting social media, OTT and other digital media platforms. Once complete, the media plan should include details on not only how and where to run the marketing campaign but also how much to spend and what the company needs to watch out for.
Implementing the Media Plan
The completed media plan will inform the media buyer when it comes to actually implementing the ad campaign.
Budgetary recommendations within the plan serve as limits for each platform that campaigns will run on, with the media buyer trying to get as much value out of the ad spend for each platform. Whenever possible, the buyer will try to maintain costs at or below the budget recommendations; for most companies it will take a spectacular deal or a platform that is deemed essential to the campaign for the buyer to consider offers over the budget.
Once ad space is purchased and the campaign is deployed, the media buyer will continue monitoring ad performance and may make recommendations for changes to the plan if necessary. Depending on how ads are tracking and events outside of your control, there are some instances where an ad or possibly an entire campaign may need to be adjusted or pulled.
The media buyer keeps track of performance data and helps to optimize the campaign, and the data collected from this campaign will then go to the media planner when the time comes to start planning the next ad campaign.