Are You Still Planning and Buying Media Like It’s 2007?

When I first started out in media planning I used to make fancy slides smothered in Smart Art. The conversion funnel slide showing high impact buys and how it filtered down the funnel to remessaging. Delicious. One of the last slides would always be the snapshot of the media plan and media mix. Usually it listed all the publishers we wanted and a rationale for each. I’d even include a nifty pie chart to show the publisher spend breakout and amazing media portfolio management skills I had as if I was some sort of financial advisor recommending an investment strategy to a client. The mix would include a few networks, a popular news site and vertical specific direct buy, etc.

I saw a media mix slide the other day with a line for our trading desk with the rationale throwing out buzzwords like Prospecting and RTB. We also included a hot, new ad tech startup that’s able to optimize a client’s YouTube video based on shares, and lastly we recommended a revamp of our remessaging program with tiered pools based on user journey triggering dynamic creative utilizing a third party rich media vendor.

More and more discussions we have with clients are around audience mix rather than media mix these days. Historically, the media provided the means to get in front of the target audience, but now we have technologies that are nonpartisan to any media platform making scale of niche audiences fully realized. As such, we now brief in our ad operations team as well as technology specialists to create a media plan that reads more like the Y Combinator or TechStars alumni roster than a who’s who of media owners. Look at the percentage of ad spend dedicated to RTB YoY and you’ll see a similar story of ad technologies taking more of a cut into what used to be ‘traditional’ digital media ad spend.  And it’s not just with our industry – take a look at VC firms pouring money into digital media and ad tech companies to see this is a trend that transcends media specialists into mainstream.

There will be a day when a brand delivers an ad to a right user regardless of platform, network, or site.  Internet-enabled TV, game consoles with WiFi and media streaming capabilities, increase in smartphone usage, etc. are providing the foundation for disruption on the media industry. It’s to go beyond the traditional media plan to now delivering an ‘audience plan’.  Regardless of the hurdles with this new proposition (I’ve highlighted a few in a recent post in AdExchanger), Brands are starting to give overall digital budgets to their media agencies to be used as effectively as possible instead of sectioning off budget for mobile, for direct buys, paid social, etc.  However, many media agencies still haven’t created an internal structure (billing/process/reporting/managing) to accommodate an audience buying model cross disciplines: social, mobile, display, etc.

Outside of an agency’s trading desk, the planning and buying process is still very archaic in the sense that we use static tools to plan for a dynamic medium. At the end of the day, a client doesn’t care if you’re allocating budget to Network A or Network B as long as you hit a CPA target and/or hit the right audience. A client wants their digital agency to say, “We’re seeing Women 25 – 34 interested in recipes that use Pinterest and frequent YouTube to watch cat videos converting,” rather than “Network A is seeing stronger performance over Network B.” A client can’t take that information and apply it to their above the line strategies.

You think Facebook is so popular for Brands because they love buying static, non-standard banners? No, it’s because they love the idea of cherry picking their audiences and finding the nuances of each. We may always have verticals for planning, but switch Network A and Network B for Audience A and Audience B. The demand is apparent for a market with a holistic audience buying model; however after a few years to mature the audience buying idea, how has your agency structure changed to facilitate this in the logistical sense?

A few suggestions in the short-term as we near a viable solution:

1. Be more transparent about what data points you’re using.  Not all third party data categorizes your target audience the same so make it clear to a client what you’re buying and report on it as such.

2.  Educate your client(s) on how they can integrate their CRM and onsite activity with their offsite activity for more robust prospecting and remessaging opportunities.

3.  Consider how you would shift your business model to accommodate the trend – I know this sounds controversial as many media agencies are on the commission model, but it needs to be assessed at some point in order to move forward.

4.  Read – the industry is moving at a speed comparable to Usain Bolt, so keep up!

Jayne Pimentel is the Head of Display Media for Razorfish London and writes a biweekly column for The Makegood.

  • Frank Walter

    Awesome post Jayne! We’re still a way off in the Australian market but things are catching up quickly. If I was to add a point 5 it would be question… question what the hell does network/data provider X mean when they talk about their “motor category”. Where is their data coming from and what’s the reach like when it comes to the collection of that data?

  • LadyGaga

    Did you share your thoughts on the media mix slide with it’s author?

  • Frank

    Methinks Neetib should stop using spammy SEO practices that haven’t worked since before Panda…