Friday, February 8, 2013
Is Media Planning Getting Too Superficial?
If you have worked in any aspect of the advertising business for a while, you are almost always subjected to self appointed critics who say how superficial advertising is as well as the people who work in it--namely you. Some of the comments can be true but generally they are not.
Lately, however, I see a lot more superficiality in an area that I hold dear. That area is media planning. There is no question that the media puzzle is getting more complicated each year. Yet, certain simple disciplines seem to be falling by the wayside.
A good example is explaining to a neophyte the difference between media buying and media planning. For years, if giving a half day or full day “media boot camp” seminar to new clients, I would always tie in both disciplines to the laws of economics. Media buying was part art but was also a captive of the economic law of supply and demand. So pricing of TV, radio, magazines and other traditional media were largely subject to an auction market. When the economy was strong or certain programming or radio stations were highly desirable to advertisers, the price of the inventory would rise. In a recession where pressure for inventory fell or sometimes collapsed, the prices would fall and often quite quickly.
When it came to media planning, the economic law of diminishing returns took center stage. For example, if your projection said that TV had reached 85% of the target prospects (likely overstated as I have often written) you would have found that adding 20% more dollars might yield a projection of only a few more incremental percentage points in potential delivery. So, when the diminishing returns on that incremental 20% expenditure became extreme, you knew that it was time to move remaining dollars to other media options.
Recently, I have written to young planners about this issue. Their response has not been that I am a harmless old fossil but rather that either my time honored approach was too sophisticated for their clients or why should one bother to do so much work? One told me that he just guesses at it. “What if a client asks you how the mix was determined,” I asked. He responded, “No one has so far and, if one does, I can always make something up.”
Clearly, something is wrong, very wrong. How do they integrate social media, mobile or any number of digital platforms in to the mix? Here they talk about the accountability of new media which is very good and then say that they can actually “steal” money from clients promotional dollars and re-invest it in to a variety of paid media platforms. My question remains how do they determine how much to put in each area? You get some windy answers but, boiling it down, the bottom line seems to be to try a bunch of things and see what sticks.
Things are changing fast and people at small and mid-sized shops are at a huge disadvantage to those working at the giants as they cannot tap into the enormous resource and experience pools that the mega-agencies have. Yet, media staffers at smaller shops still have a big responsibility. They are spending other people’s money and need to spend it well if their agencies campaigns and clients are to succeed. There seems to be too much sloppy work out there when a bit more effort could pay their clients rich dividends.
If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org