Digital media planning is an art and a science, an arcane discipline that relies on gut instinct, hard numbers, and perhaps, most importantly, a lot of patience and hard work.
It can be a time-consuming, frustrating and expensive exercise, especially if you don't have a clear view of the media planning process and the media landscape.
That's why I'm hoping to demystify media landscape with this article by breaking it down into a few steps - from conception and creation to execution and analysis.
The media planning process should start with discovery. Your media planner should start off by understanding the business objectives for the campaign, the metrics that will indicate success or failure (key performance indicators - KPIs), and the audiences that will be targeted. Creative briefs and ad landing pages might be useful in understanding what the aims of the campaign are.
Once you have defined your campaign goals in a measurable way - one that keeps in mind the impacts you are looking for and your campaign timeframes - you will be in a good position to start planning a campaign that is tightly aligned with your business's overall marketing and sales targets.
The next step is to craft a distribution strategy that will ensure that your campaign runs through the best media channels to ensure that the right target audience receives your brand message. Your planning should encompass a range of media and techniques - paid search, display, mobile, social, network buys, real time bidding, promotional mailers - to engage and interact with potential consumers.
Working with your media planner, you should develop a comprehensive media plan that includes your goals and objectives, campaign strategy, implementation approach and ROI projections. It's worth looking closely at media research to see which channels and outlets fit well with the brand and the campaign.
3. Placement strategy
Even if your campaign is informative, educating and entertaining, it may still be compromised if your placement strategy isn't right for the audience you're trying to reach. A successful placement strategy is one that allows you to reach your KPIs in the most cost-effective manner. Factors that may shape your placements include demographics of the audience, site focus, website traffic, quality of content, context, targeting capabilities, user behaviour, website credibility and ad clutter.
There are four basics to bear in mind in your placement strategy: reach, frequency, impact and continuity. If your media planners have an in-depth understanding of the offerings from the many digital publishers, they'll be in a better position to negotiate good rates and premium ad spots in better ad formats.
4. Execution and measurement
Once you've drawn up your plan, it's up to your creative execution to work its magic. You should be using campaign monitoring and analysis tools to understand how well your campaign is working for you. This will give you insight into which creative executions, sites and channels are performing well, against the backdrop of the audiences you wish to reach.
Challenges to remember
Those are the basics of digital media planning, but it's worth remembering that growing fragmentation of online media means that managing a successful online advertising campaign is becoming more challenging all the time.
What's more, a lack of industry benchmarking standards means there are many inconsistencies in how publishers price inventory and report basic metrics.
My top tips for the dealing with the complexity of media planning are:
Businesses of all sizes can greatly benefit from working with a professional media planning and buying agency to save time, money, and frustration. Media planners have the tools and focus to keep on top of an ever-changing and complex landscape.
Coupling digital planning to other marketing efforts (for example direct marketing, TV, radio, print) can create synergies that improve return on investment across various channels.
Internet advertising is constantly evolving and shifting towards automation and a digital-centric focus for planning. Keep tabs on innovations such as real-time bidding, native advertising, video advertising and digital TV, and introduce them into your business when it makes sense to do so.