Crafting a budget-savvy, competent media plan is an essential piece of any marketing strategy, and one step that shouldn’t be abbreviated or skipped over. Between conducting market research, collecting data, identifying the target audience, determining touchpoints and managing media budgets, media planning is a full-time job. Many companies turn to professional media planners to tackle this task. What do you get when you invest in media planning services, though? Quite a lot.
What Must Be Understood to Create a Media Plan
Media planners play a crucial role, bridging the gap between your brand and the media buyers who will ultimately purchase the required inventory you need. They wear many different hats — researcher, data analyst, psychologist, economist, statistician, sociologist — on their way to developing a strategy to maximize ROI on media spend. However, the very first step is learning everything they can about...you.
In order to get the most out of media planning services, your media planners need to know you inside and out. We need to gain a clear understanding of your hopes, dreams, goals and objectives, so in the beginning expect to get a lot of questions about:
Your Product or Service: We need to know what you’re offering to customers and why you do it better than your competitors. If you’re creating a campaign to advertise a new product or service, we also need to understand how it fits into your offerings.
Your Customers: We need to know everything you know about your customers — how they break down demographically, how they found you, and what their motivation is for giving you their hard-earned money.
Your Objectives: What result are you hoping to achieve from your media campaign? Examples could be driving brand awareness, introducing a new product or increasing sales revenue.
Your Goals: How will you determine the success of a campaign? For instance, if your objective is brand awareness, your goal may be hitting a certain amount of total impressions across all engaged channels.
For the last and perhaps most important question for a media plan, we’ll need to know about:
Your Target Audience
An important discussion that should be had early on is about your target audience. It’s a bit difficult to create a media plan if we don’t know who we’re talking to, and no one will know more about your target audience than you. Specifically, we’ll be asking you questions like:
Which segment of your audience are you trying to engage in this media campaign?
If you’re introducing a new product or service, are you intending to target an existing segment of your audience, or are you trying to reach an entirely new audience?
How much audience research have you already done? Depending on what you have already, your media planners may need to collect more data from external sources, especially if you’re hoping to tap into a new group of consumers.
How the Optimal Media Mix is Determined
Once the Q&A part of the process is complete, the next thing media planners do is conduct research. Depending on the assignment, their research will take them in many different directions as they analyze current trends of your industry, determine the parameters of the region in which you want to focus your campaign, look at what your competitors are doing, figure out which audience segments are the most active and much more. To accomplish this, media planners utilize a couple of avenues: data collection, research and their own personal experience.
Research and Data
The central activity of a media planning service is research. Conducting research into your company, your competitors, your industry, your desired audience and your ideal media channels takes up a considerable amount of time. We comb through sources such as trade association reports, industry reports, consumer surveys, media trend reports and media kits from various outlets. From all of this research, we gather a huge pile of data we must sift through.
We’re living in the era of Big Data, which means there is no shortage of options when it comes to acquiring datasets. The challenge for media planners is finding high-quality data they can actually put to use. There are countless types of data that can be collected from trade association reports to consumer surveys, but generally, we can divide them into three categories: first-party data, second-party data and third-party data.
First-Party Data: This is data that is collected directly from your customers or audience, making it the most accurate for your brand while potentially lacking in scale. Media planners use first-party data to analyze demographics, behaviors, your buyer’s journey and other trends unique to you. We can then apply this information to predict future patterns, gain audience insights we can apply to new segments and make decisions about the ideal media mix.
Examples: customer feedback and surveys, subscription and purchasing data or website analytics.
Second-Party Data: Essentially, your second-party data is someone else’s first-party data. Normally media planners buy this data directly from the source or through a private data marketplace. Unlike first-party data, we didn’t get it directly for you and your customers, but we also know the source (unlike third-party data), so it’s still very trustworthy. Second-party data is helpful for learning more about a new audience you’ve never engaged with before, or it can help bolster your existing data.
Examples: Google Trends data, data from social media platforms like Facebook or data acquired directly from a research firm.
Third-Party Data: This type of data is aggregated from various sources and bought and sold on a data exchange. Because it originates from multiple sources, the entity selling the dataset actually has no direct relationship with the data. There can be serious concerns about the quality of the data you purchase, but media planners are pros; we can sniff out good data versus bad. Third-party data is an excellent way to help us expand your audience reach, improve contextual and behavioral targeting capabilities and discover new audiences to engage with.
Examples: Data acquired from data solutions companies such as Lotame, Eyeota or Adsquare.
Analyzing the market and media research and data collected is both an art and a science. For instance, the data might indicate display ads to be the cheapest option for digital advertising, but experience will inform us that they aren’t the smartest option if our concern is conversions. That’s the benefit of investing in media planning services, you have access to professional planners with years of experience and insight into the media industry. When we’re identifying the ideal mix, we tap into this expertise to deliver you a media plan backed as much by data as it is by our knowledge of the unique circumstances of your brand, industry, campaign and audience.
How Are Media Outlets Contacted?
Briefly, we wanted to explain what happens after we’ve created a media plan. Once channel selections are finalized, one of the final objectives of media planning services is reaching out to traditional media outlets and engaging with digital media buyers. When we reach out to outlets, we do so with a request for proposal, or RFP. This is a document issued to multiple vendors requesting a bid proposal in order to narrow down their options and identify the best fit. (“RFP”, for those who are a bit confused, refers to both the proposal solicitation process and the RFP document itself.)
RFPs present outlets with a list of questions regarding services, costs, measurement, and other needs and should help evaluate outlets on criteria such as:
Audience targeting capabilities
Campaign analytics and reporting
In the case that any part of your media mix is digital, media planners will work with a digital media buyer to set up online campaigns on the appropriate platforms. Most digital media is bought programmatically, allowing media planners and buyers to closely follow analytics and continually optimize the campaigns.
Media Planning Services: Getting Everything (and More) You Paid For
Media planning is essential to any effective marketing strategy, but as you’ve seen above, it’s also an incredibly time-consuming process that can quickly overwhelm you with data and research. By turning to professional media planning services, you save yourself a lot of time, energy and resources while entrusting the process to experts.
At The Ward Group, we’ve been carefully crafting media plans for our clients since 1985, so we know a thing or two about the process. We've built a reputation for developing strategic media campaigns in a variety of industries including retail, healthcare, education, government, automotive and more. Throughout our 35+ years of service, our philosophy hasn’t changed: to invest and manage each media dollar as if it were our own. That’s why they call us the media stewards.
When you partner with the Ward Group to plan your next campaign, you’ll get everything you pay for — and more. If you’d like to learn more about our media planning services, contact us today!