By Richard Wechsler, the Founder/CEO of Lockard & Wechsler Direct (LWD)
Here’s one of my cardinal rules for media planning: the opportunity of a lifetime is only there during the lifetime of the opportunity. When it comes to maximizing the reach and efficiency of a media plan, those opportunities fly by at light speed. By the time the window of opportunity opens, it’s often too late.
Look at how disruptive 2020 election coverage was to television viewership. Locally and nationally, viewers migrated to their preferred news outlets in astounding numbers. This isn’t surprising. Politics, natural disasters and world events drive significant spikes in viewership. The latest example is “election week” (November 2-6), Fox News viewership was up 46%, CNN +178%, and MSNBC +77% compared to the previous week. The same spikes can be seen during The Super Bowl. The difference is this, advertisers plan for tent pole events like Super Bowls, The Summer and Winter Olympics, even the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They are less likely to anticipate or react in a timely way to politics, the weather and natural disasters.
This causes me to scratch my head. Media planners are charged with delivering maximum reach against specific targets at minimum cost. As for performance marketers, we have the same KPIs plus sales, revenue and ROI. We track the performance of all these KPIs 24/7. And we jump all over any upticks to improve performance. In turn, we react swiftly to diminish the impact of the downturns.
Daily stewardship and scrutiny comprise the second secret to great media planning. Don’t wait for a campaign to end to track and measure its effectiveness. If you don’t know how a campaign is performing NOW, you can’t possibly make optimizations in flight. Very real business goals are tied to marketing campaigns. A retailer or a consumer product company has very sophisticated econometric models that inform how much they can invest in media and how many targeted impressions they need to drive sales and deliver ROI. Why then are audience deficiency units (ADUs) so often given after a campaign ends, rather than in-flight, when the units can deliver impressions and contribute to business goals?
Agencies and the media share the blame here, but tracking all KPIs on a daily basis can change all of that. Doing so reveals which media buys are under-delivering and those that are on the rise while a campaign is in-flight. With daily tracking, informed adjustments can be made throughout a flight, improving the likelihood that all media and business goals are met and exceeded. With national and local overnight ratings available, this level of stewardship should be a media planning best practice.
Robust research and analytics are the third pillars of great media planning. Continuously tracking shifts in media performance down to the quarter-hour and program level can inform new opportunities to help achieve and exceed goals. Doing so not only results in the best-informed plans from the start but also allow for midcourse corrections to maximize delivery.
Of course, the best-informed plans, those developed from precise target profiles and the most current rating data, are only effective if they are properly executed. This demands tight coordination between media planners and media buyers, especially with a media market that is continuous in flux. For a myriad of unforeseen reasons, advertisers move in and out of the market. These shifts create a constant flow of unanticipated opportunities. The buyers are the ones on the front line of this constantly shifting market. These opportunities only benefit advertisers when buyers and planners work in lockstep with one another. And when it works well, the advertiser benefits from improved efficiencies and audience delivery.
Of course, taking advantage of opportunities also demands that media plans be as flexible as the market is dynamic. Ongoing research and analysis that anticipate rating shifts tied to the world and cultural events is just one piece of the puzzle. Check out the ratings for Shark Week, or Hallmark Christmas movies.
All of these moments present real opportunities to deliver against advertisers’ business goals. Planners, however, can’t hesitate to take advantage of audience spikes that these real-time and seasonal opportunities deliver. Because doing so can turn even the best, thought out plans into spectacular successes we couldn’t have planned for.