Has digital media made media planning a lost art?

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Avalon Group NZ ceo/content director Ryf Quail writes exclusively for M+AD: Back in the dark ages, when we confirmed our media buys by fax (a really long time ago) we still used media programmes to plan. We had tools like Media Gardens, TV MAP, RadioScope – all good platforms to build a robust schedule. We got our reach and frequency right and built a balanced schedule to support the media strategy and gave our traders the confidence to go out and weave their magic.

Cutting our teeth on these tools allowed us to understand the craft of media planning with empirical data. It allowed us the ability to isolate audiences that matter for our clients but most importantly, we had confidence that we were spending our clients money wisely, topped off nicely with a few lunches along the way.

Fast forward to 2017 and things have really changed a lot. Back then there was no search, social or programmatic media but it seems they have become an excuse for no planning, rather than just optimisation. This has been further augmented by the fact that many of the kids starting their careers in media don’t learn their craft on planning tools, rather on digital operational tools such as ad serving and programmatic bid tools.

Even further to this we have a media market in structural decline with Facebook and Google growing quickly and all other media going backwards, even our local digital media. This is not unique to New Zealand and a conversation for another time!

Exciting talent
On a brighter side we have the talent. I have a role working with students at Auckland University of Technology and let me tell you, these kids make me excited about our future. Their thinking and ideas are sharp and clear. More importantly, their societal values make me feel very positive about future New Zealand and our planet.

But enough about that, back to media planning. In media agency world, I had a conversation with a senior digital operator recently who said “why do we need to plan? We will be 40% Google, 40% Facebook and 20% programmatic.” Excuse me. WTF?

Why do we plan media? To not waste our clients’ money! Herein lies the problem. Just because our audiences are on these platforms, doesn’t mean we should just turn on the fire hose of cash and optimise down to the target. To do that is to say, I am happy to waste the money for the first couple of weeks until I work out where the most responsive audience lies and hone in on them. That is not planning, that is optimisation. Optimisation without initial planning is called wasting money. Don’t get me wrong, a good media agency builds intellectual property over time so that they can optimise schedules very quickly and know where the ‘go to’ media properties are that work for theirclients, but surely we should plan to have confidence that the right audience is there in the first  place.

How is it done in NZ?
So it begs the question, how is it being done in New Zealand? What tools, independent of publisher data, are helping media agencies target people by behaviour or by demographics or by likelihood of category engagement?

How are these audiences being found in planning rather than being optimised to? This planning is not limited to local publishers but programmatic entities like KPEX, global media like Facebook, Google and YouTube, other overseas networks and mobile apps.

And once this audience is found, what are the trading parameters that dictate success: on target delivery; viewability; absence of fraud; cost efficiency; engagement; or brand uplift and overall commercial results?

One thing is for certain, no one can afford to waste money by turning on the fire hose when the audience can be found right at the outset, through good digital media planning.

  • www.theavalongroup.co.nz (The Avalon Group is a portfolio of marketing leading brands which connect marketers, business leaders, publishers and agencies with consumer insights, customer data and digital innovation to enable change and drive business growth.)

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