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Media Planning & Buying with Maria Harrison | Bullseye VLOG

by | May 21, 2021

What Is Media Planning and Buying? 

Media planning is the art and science of figuring out where your ads need to run, how long they need to run, and how frequently they need to be shown to your target audience to be successful.

What Do I Need to Know Before I Begin?

We usually start with the goal in mind. What is it that you want these ads to accomplish for you? Are these top-of-the-funnel ads designed to create brand awareness and work in concert with other marketing tactics lower in the funnel? Or are these direct response ads that need to work hard at the bottom of the funnel to get people to take immediate action when seeing the ad? Or maybe they fall somewhere in the middle, so they’re not true brand awareness, but they’re not direct response ads; they’re going to work in concert with other lower-funnel tactics. Those are some of the things we consider when doing a media plan for a client.

How Important Is My Targeting Data?

The more defined we can make that audience, the better we can target the ads, the better the return on ad spend will be. For us, it’s all about planning and forecasting what we want to accomplish before we even start looking at where we might place ads for a client. Once we identify those things, we’ll start looking at where we can reach this target audience and the best tactics, tools, and publishers to reach the audience that our client needs to get to.

Where Should I Run My Ads?

Once we complete the planning process and identify all of those elements, we get into the buying process. Now we have an idea of where we want to place the media, and then we start reaching out to the appropriate parties. In some cases, those are self-serve platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn; they have self-serve tools. In other cases, we’re buying direct to publisher, meaning we’re going to websites, such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, and buying ads directly on those websites. Other times, we’re using a trading desk, or we’re buying this media programmatically. Programmatic ad buying is a cost-efficient way to purchase ads and still appear on some primary publisher sites like some of the ones I just mentioned.

What Are the Best Ways to Determine Target Data?

We need to dig into who the target audience is. Some of the ways we do that might seem obvious, like identifying gender, where these people might reside, annual household income, and other demographics.

Then we go beyond that, and we dig into things like spending and buying behavior, previous types of purchases that a consumer has made, recent purchases that a consumer has made that might indicate they need a product or service that you’re selling.

In a simple example, there is data out there that we can purchase to tell us whether people have just purchased a new home. If you’re selling new home services, that could be anything from alarm systems to cable services for your home to an interior decorator or painter’s. We can then target those people based on that recent purchase because now we know that they’re likely to need other services and products that many homebuyers need. Another way we dig into the target audience is to look at customer data. If you’re an established business and you have customer data and a database of past purchases that might be indicative of future behavior, we analyze that data as well. 

And last but certainly not least, we often try to identify personas. A persona is a fictitious person that might look like your typical target audience. If we can create a persona that helps us further zero in on your target audience, where they might be on the web and other behaviors that might indicate they’re likely to purchase a product or service.

How Much Do I Need to Spend on a Media Campaign?

Extensive brand awareness campaigns have very different budgets than maybe smaller to medium-sized direct response campaigns. We spend a lot of time analyzing that with our clients and determining precisely what kind of campaigns we need to run to make your business and this particular media plan successful.

What Else Do I Need for My Media Plan?

Another consideration will be creative assets. There are a plethora of places where you can advertise today. There are podcasts, CTV, Over the Top, YouTube, Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and the list goes on and on. Some of this might be limited by the creative assets you either have or have the budget to develop. While you may think a great big video campaign sounds exciting and would work well for your product, you also need the budget to create those video assets. Of course, we work with our clients on how to get those done, and the style of video you want, for example, may dictate whether or not we have the budget to do it.

Then there are also the self-serve platforms where we can create ads for you right inside the platform. We can make what I’ll call more traditional banner ads to serve through conventional means out to the web, such as your standard banner at the top of the page or down the side of the page. And then we have some newer ad types like the rising star, homepage takeovers, things of that nature. So we really get into how much budget a client has for creative and which creative types will do the job for the client’s goals.

How Will We Know if the Plan Was Successful?

Another point for consideration in the media planning process is tracking. We work very closely with our clients to identify how we’re going to track the campaign’s success, which means we have to identify everything, such as what types of URLs we’re going to use. UTM codes will be applied, which is a little piece of code that we add to the URLs to know exactly which media drove the consumer to your website.

We dig in on tracking and how we’re going to track all the way to the back end of the client system. If it’s an eCom site, it’s pretty straightforward because the sale will just pop out on the other side, and tools like Shopify and Magento, for example, all have built-in tracking that works with the media. In other instances, we’re generating leads, and we’re dumping that data to a tool like Salesforce. We work with our clients pretty closely to understand what the setup is on their end and how we’ll evaluate return on investment for them and how we will measure that.

What Is the Most Important Creative Element?

Another thing we do during the media planning process is identifying the message. This identification goes typically alongside the target audience research. What is the message? Is it a promotion? A sales message? Is it a Memorial Day sale? A Christmas sale? How are we talking to the audience? What are we talking to them about?

In some cases, this even allows us to do contextual targeting; taking a creative piece and putting it next to an editorial article that is contextually relevant can help your ads perform better than if they’re not next to something contextually relevant. If you were selling a product or a service to a new home buyer, you might put that ad next to an article about recent trends in interior design as a way to have better contextual relevancy for your ads.

Is Competitor Analysis Part of Media Planning?

We would do things like audit competitors. We can see what competitors are spending, and we can even get directional information on where they’re placing their media spends. That can indicate what kind of media is working for a competitor, and then we can use that intelligence to decide how it might influence our own media plan. We would also certainly look at messaging and how you want your messaging to stack against competitors’ ads and promotions. They might have a Memorial Day promotion that they run every year of 20% off, and so maybe you look to come into the market as a new entrant with 25% or 30% off.

Where are they placing their ads, and how frequently are they placing ads in specific markets may indicate that those are thriving markets for a product or service like this, and so we may want to be heavy in similar markets. Doing that kind of market research can inform us about how we should behave.

What Are the Components of a Great Media Plan?

There are a myriad of tactics that we can consider when we’re building out a media plan and placing our media bias, and those tactics vary and range from client to client the self-service platform addressable tv there’s also programmatic advertising if you’re just doing what I’ll call “old-fashioned media buys” you’re missing a lot of opportunities to be efficient and effective with your ads and specifically target your audience

Is There a Minimum Budget for a Media Plan?

Technically the answer is no. On Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and all these self-sort platforms, you certainly can go in and spend $50, $100 right, but it’s not going to do much, and it’s not going to work. Probably a waste of time and money, and effort to set those ads up. Generally speaking, we want to start with a few thousand dollars a month. This budget will allow us to let the Google Ads algorithm, the Facebook algorithm, or wherever we’re buying have enough budget to let those algorithms understand what we’re trying to accomplish with these ads and optimize the goals that we’ve achieved set within those platforms. Starting with much less than that we generally don’t recommend for most businesses, is it impossible? No. Is it recommended? Probably not.

What IS Media Bidding?

Bidding in the media buying process refers to the opportunity to bid a certain amount that you’re willing to pay for a click or an impression. It’s kind of like an auction-based system “Hey i’m willing to pay $X per click for this keyword,” for example. While it sounds simple and like you should determine what you would pay per click, most of these tools will recommend a bid to you to be successful. Just because you’re willing to pay $10, if there are competitors that are willing to pay $50 or $60 for a click, if you’re not competitive in that bid, the platform won’t show your ad as much as your competitor’s ad.

On other platforms, you can bid on a CPM basis. There are programmatic ad platforms we use where we can bid on a cost per thousand impressions. In that model, you’re bidding for what you’re willing to pay for somebody to see your ad, not to necessarily take action on it, just to see your ad.

What’s Changed Due to COVID-19?

COVID-19 has changed the world and how we behave. When writing this, people are getting vaccinations in the U.S., and life, as usual, is starting to resume a little bit. Indeed, we did see changes drastic changes in buying behavior and in internet consumption behavior throughout the covid pandemic lockdowns, and even as lockdowns began to lift, how people interacted with the web changed. People were on their screens more during lockdown than they’ve been subsequently. We’ve had to pay close attention to just overall media consumption, and how people are spending has changed pretty drastically.

One thing we saw coming out of the end of 2020 is that it looks like people are much more price-sensitive and promo-sensitive than they ever were. Coming out of the pandemic where we’ve had so much unemployment and so much loss, we see that coupon hunting, bargain hunting, is at an all-time high. Forecasts are projecting this to continue. People have changed how they buy since the pandemic and how much they’re willing to spend on a product or service. They’re much more hunting the deal than they were before the pandemic. That has impacted our return on ad spend for some clients and changed how we think about advertising and what kinds of promotions we put out to them and how frequently we put them out to entice them to engage with our client’s products and purchase them.

What’s Next in Digital Media Planning?

As we look ahead to the future and we try to think about what media planning buying will look like over the next year, two years, or five years, I think we’ll continue to have these self-service platforms like the Facebooks of the world and the Ad Words of the world. Still, I think you’re going to continue to see a proliferation of programmatic media. It is just a cost-efficient way to buy media. I think you’ll continue to see more ott opportunities come out and different ways to purchase over-the-top media such as on Hulu and Slang. And then, we also need to think about augmented and virtual reality and how those technologies might change the creative delivery of ads.

The other thing that I believe will change with video and is coming is the ability to make in-video purchases. In the past few years is we see more than ever product placement and video, whether that be on YouTube or through influencers and social, and the next thing that’s coming is for the consumer to be able to interact with that product.

Imagine you’re watching a video on YouTube and you see your favorite actress, let’s say it’s Jen Garner. She has on a killer pair of Louboutins; you might be able to click right on those high heels in the video, purchase them from the video without ever leaving the video stream. As the consumer, you don’t even have to interrupt your experience with the video, and you’re able to purchase those shoes. For some of us, the shopaholics in the room, this might be dangerous as it’s going to allow us to buy faster than we ever did before. As marketers, it will enable us to have engaging content and hit consumers when they’re impressed with the product, so they don’t have to look for it later.

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