May 11, 2021

By Brian Jacobs / The COG

Let's talk about planning. Even better, let's be clear what we mean by the word, then let's talk about it.

Way back when, media agencies decided it was essential to rise above the perception (amongst their clients) that their true value lay in buying media, cheaply. What they needed was for clients to value them differently and appreciate the range of services they could provide.

One step was to rebrand media planning as "communications planning." This was a smart move, in that buying media cheaply was something that couldn't hope to command a premium fee if it was all that the client thought you did. Everyone was doing it, everyone could claim they were doing it better than the next guy, and everyone was undercutting everyone else.

Plus, the era of greater transparency was dawning and eventually machines were likely to be able to do large chunks of the job. Focusing on buying was not a long-term plan.

Comms planning, on the other hand, was all about integration, sitting at the center of a wheel with spokes reaching into all kinds of areas (and budgets) including PR, sponsorship, product placement, events and experiential as well as advertising.

This was the promised land of consultancy, sitting at the client's right hand. Respect and fees were high. Some agencies sought to draw parallels with management consultancies (whilst not hiring at consultancy salaries).

There was, though, one major problem. No-one in agencies had a clue how to deliver it, nor were the tools there to assist.

Agencies fully understood the benefits of integration. They were great at ensuring that the advertising tied in with other marketing activity. And brilliant at stunts.

What we were (and I suspect still are) less good at is planning these things, once we accept that "planning" is about more than working around the timing of pre-committed activities.

Planning campaigns that involve more than advertising, splitting budgets between ads, events, PR and the rest to arrive at an optimal plan has always involved a mix of the diplomatic and the technical, where the technical bit is lacking.

Intra-media planning is firmer ground, which is why building a framework to measure all video, or systems to mix print and online versions of print, are all the rage. It's also vital.

Take video as an example. As this week's Enders report (summarized here by Nick Manning) suggests, whilst TV viewing is doing well, TV advertising is not. Enders suggests a possible decline by 2027 of between £364 million and £1.35 billion.

Enders make the point that TV advertising is still rooted in trading concepts like share deals, station average price, and contract rights renewal.

Share deals and SAP date back at least to the 1970's; CRR to 2003.

If TV advertising is going to flourish it needs to remind those in advertising and their agencies of the effectiveness of the medium. Audience size and cost was once a proxy for effectiveness.

Today we are starting to develop the tools that support the hypothesis that effectiveness has as much to do with how people receive the message, where, when and on what screen. Plus, we increasingly link activity to business outcomes.

To maximize effectiveness these days involves smart planning, supported by great buying.

In broadcast, Thinkbox is world class. Their masters should listen to them more and to the big buyers with their share deals and their prices v SAP less.

Meantime, the labyrinthine task of sorting out cross-video measurement should be seen (and promoted) as a crucial first step towards integrated communication planning.

This is where research businesses like MESH Experience come in. MESH tracks exposure to all brand communications, and the impact each has on brand perceptions. Not just advertising; all brand communications across all touchpoints.

MESH is a co-founder of Crater Lake and Company combining the data they collect with the predictive modelling capabilities of fellow co-founder custometrics. The outcomes are narratives that guide those charged with creating integrated plans.

Integrated, not "just" advertising, and based around outcomes, not outputs; business results not impressions, likes or followers.

Plans based on neutrality, not agency in-fighting.

Disclosure: BJ&A is a co-founder of Crater Lake and Company mentioned in this post.

Appeared first in MediaVillage

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