Ad Agency

How to Filter Bias from your Media Plans


cindy2-260On our way to becoming media generalists, we are first specialists.  And the medium we first specialize in can hold a special place in our hearts like a first summer crush.

But solid rationale and a wide range of considerations are the drivers of successful campaigns, and letting our feelings get in the way can lead us down the wrong path.

Many broadcast buyers like me grew up in a siloed work environment where they were responsible for buying either radio or television but not necessarily both.  Left unchecked, we can often gravitate toward our first loves throughout our career.  So, how do you overcome the tendency to favor one medium over the other?  Just like in a relationship it takes effort and the ability to separate feelings from the facts.

If you’re presented with this dilemma I’d suggest the following tips:

  • Develop a check system for including each medium in your plan. What are the goals for your campaign and which medium best achieves those goals?  All media planners learn the basics of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each medium, and that usually happens early in one’s career.  As a seasoned professional, it’s ok to revert back to those basics to help you make hard choices on what best to recommend to the client.  Make your decisions based on the strengths and weaknesses of each medium.  Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each allows you to objectively get beyond your bias for one medium or tactic.
  • Root your decisions in the numbers. Let the marketing research speak for itself.  Agencies spend a huge amount of money to purchase all of the tools needed to assess what the target audience is consuming and how receptive they are to advertising in those environments.  Although the research is open to interpretation, there are often clear winners.  It’s important not to torture the statistics until they tell you what you want to hear.   Stick to the numbers and your objectivity will remain intact.
  • Don’t let your profit margin get in the way. Ideally, executive management has removed any potential profit biases from the equation ahead of time by adopting an unbiased compensation model.  But if you work for a large holding company where the unsaid rule is to push plans that will profit the agency and aren’t necessarily the most optimal plan for the client, stop yourself.  Although profit is important, giving the client the best plan possible is paramount.  If done right, this sets you up for future business with this client and will ultimately lead to the agency making additional fees.  Nobody wants a one off and putting the client first is the best way to avoid churning and burning through your roster of clients.
  • Pretend your first love no longer exists. If you never met your ex-girl/boyfriend wouldn’t it be easier to find someone else that makes you happy rather than comparing the old to the new?  Pretend that your favorite medium no longer exists and you need to find a new love.  Who/what would that love be?  Sit down and write out the pros and cons of each medium and fall in love with one of them.
  • Discuss your love with your co-workers. Bouncing your thoughts off of a co-worker will help you to justify your desire to include your preferred medium.  A good co-worker will be brutally honest and let you know whether or not they agree with you including your first love.
  • Remind yourself that you are paid to be objective. It’s always good to give yourself a reality check and remind yourself that you’re being paid to be objective.  A client wants you to recommend the best media mix for their brand regardless of your first love.  It’s your obligation to make sure you do just that.
  • And finally, allow your feelings to creep in. Don’t fully ignore your desire as long as you can justify that your first love brings proven results to the plan, as well as creativity and innovation.  Questioning a bias can sometimes lead to avoiding your first love when it ought to be a prime consideration.

Incorporating some of the above ideas are bound to help you to make sound business decisions based on facts.  Although the feelings for your first love may always be there, you can close your laptop at night knowing that you have a clear conscience and you are putting the best plan together that will satisfy the client’s objectives when you allow the facts to guide you.  And, if you ever feel that strong desire to utilize your first love on the next plan, you’ll know it is for all of the right reasons.  So, stick to the facts but allow the feelings to guide you when needed.