Behind The Numbers: Why TV Buys with the Same Goals Can Look Very Different

Cindy_SeebeckIf you give three buying teams the same buying parameters – identical levels, flighting and show selection – you may end up with three radically different broadcast schedules.  Each schedule will meet the marketing objectives and communication goals set out at the beginning, and they’ll each deliver the planned Gross Rating Points within the budget parameters.  There is no wrong answer, and each schedule will be equally valid with their own set of pros and cons. But why does this happen, and what goes on behind the numbers?

Like a metaphor for life, the development of broadcast buys is a product of a buyer’s experiences.  Each buyer brings different experiences that aid in the development of a final schedule.  These experiences, along with the basic building blocks of buying  (Gross Rating Points, Cost Per Points/CPMs, and program environment) are some of the elements that buyers rely on to build a television schedule.   So, let’s dig into a few examples of what makes one buy different from the next.

Market Conditions

The media marketplace is a lot like the airline industry.  There are a set number of commercial breaks that can be sold within a given program.  Like the airlines, when the seats have been accounted for or sold out, people can be bumped from their seat by travelers paying more for their seats.  In the television business, commercials get bumped for higher priced advertisers when a program is sold out.  When a buyer is assembling a schedule, they must be cognizant of market place conditions.  Are they paying a bump rate to include a premium program?  Is the sales rep selling their inventory at a premium CPP/CPM which will make it more difficult to meet an advertiser’s goals?  Can the premium be offset by lower priced programming to create an overall “package?”  If the flight dates of the campaign can be shifted, will the premium sold out status be alleviated?   All of these questions may be handled differently by each buyer.  Some buyers may choose to pay the premium and some may not.  However, each will develop a schedule that meets the bottom line goals of the campaign.

Planning Parameters

When the planning department issues broadcast specs to the buying team, they include communication goals that need to be achieved within a budget during the negotiation process.   The specs are very detailed and can include programs to be excluded in addition to the general campaign goals of GRPs and budget.  However, there are times when the goals can be more lenient, such as a combined goal between two different dayparts.  Let’s say that Prime and Sports together need to reach a goal.  Here is where a buyer’s life experiences play a part.  For example, buyer A is a sports fanatic.  He knows how well the ALCS delivers and how British Open packages perform.  Buyer B knows nothing about sports but can tell you about the hot new prime shows and what actors are on what shows.  So when buyer A puts his schedule together he will have a high percentage of Sports on his plan.  Buyer B might include some sports but will satisfy her GRP goal primarily through the top Prime programs.  Each buyer satisfied the plan requirements but did so in their own unique way.

When negotiating radio, oftentimes planners will give buyers a Run of Station (ROS) goal, meaning they can negotiate rates to run anytime from 5am through 1am or in some cases, 5a-5a or throughout the day.  Buying on a ROS is a cost-cutting tactic.  Some buyers will just look to achieve the ROS goal as it is quick and easy to do so.  Buyer B will try to upgrade the schedule and negotiate for the ROS GRPs to run in a premium daypart.  Perhaps they will move those GRPs to evening or weekend.  Again, both buyers will achieve the goal but in their own unique way.

As I’m sure you can gather, broadcast buying is a combination of art and science.  Getting to the goal can be achieved in numerous ways, all of which will deliver on the advertiser’s marketing and communication goals.  The “art” portion of the buy is what can cause an advertiser to see radically different schedule scenarios that achieve the same goals.

With over 30 years of experience in Integrated Media, Cindy Seebeck is a formidable practitioner with her fingers in every medium from spot TV to Digital OOH.  She plans and executes holistic media campaigns for Underscore Marketing across a wide variety of clients.