Why Does My Digital Strategy Need Media Planning?
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How do you know when and where to place an advertisement so you’ll reach the right targets – at the right time – and inspire them to choose you? This is the job of media planning. Long recognized as a key first step in developing successful traditional advertising campaigns such as those for print or television, smart marketers know that media planning is also essential to developing a digital marketing strategy that produces solid results.
Why is Media Planning Important?
Media planning is important because it identifies the marketing campaign’s key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as its consumer targets, optimizing results without wasting time and money. Here’s how:
First, media planners work with marketers to define the campaign’s objectives: Who are you trying to reach and what are you trying to get them to do? Next, they conduct research that enables marketers to better understand their target audience, (or potential new customers) identifying consumers’ media consumption habits as well as what marketing channels will most effectively reach them.
Media planners also make marketing dollars work harder: “flighting” the marketing budget most effectively across these channels and over time to achieve the campaign’s marketing objectives. They also keep up with the latest media trends, channels, and metrics so they can adjust the campaign to optimize its performance in real-time, further ensuring it achieves its KPIs.
“Without identifying key components of the campaign, it is like throwing money blindly into the digital universe and seeing what sticks. There would be too much waste and less of a chance for success.”
—Erica Brown, VP Integrated Media Services, Austin Williams
Types of Digital Media Channels
There are new digital channels introduced all the time. Media planning teams stay on top of the newest tactics and help ensure each resulting campaign features the right mix of each to maximize results. These include:
Paid search is advertising within the sponsored listings of a search engine. Your ad placements appear at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) above organic. Research shows that many searchers cannot tell the difference between paid and organic search results, so the higher your SERPS ranking, the better for your SEO.
With paid search, you pay each time the ad is clicked (pay-per-click or PPC), when an ad is displayed (cost-per-thousand) or when phone contact is generated (pay-per-call) making it extremely cost-effective. Paid search is also easily trackable by ad, keyword, or dollar spent so you can more accurately calculate return on investment (ROI) and optimize campaign performance to further improve ROI.
Paid social media ads are posts or placements you see on social media platforms that are created and boosted by marketing budgets. Media planning and paid social strategists to deploy such campaigns to increase followers, engagement, clicks, and views. They’re precisely targeted based on users’ demographics, location, and interests, enabling you to connect with specific audiences. Paid social helps brands reach new eyeballs and breakthrough social platforms’ organic algorithms and rise above user noise.
Display ads are a type of online advertisement that places ad copy, images, and links on a website. You’ve seen display ads before; they often appear on third-party websites as banners or pop-ups.
There are many types of display ads. Most display ads you see today are remarketing ads. Marketers place tracking code on a website to collect user data, which informs which display ads are shown to the target, based on what they viewed on the site. Another type of display ad is the personalized ad, which targets consumers based on their demographics and online searches.
There are also site-placed ads, which allow you to hand-pick the websites where your ad will appear. Finally, there are contextually targeted ads, which are placed on websites according to certain criteria like topic, keywords, or location.
Display ads are practically as old as the internet, but native ads are a newer strategy that has begun to gain popularity. A form of content marketing, native ads are designed to blend in with the content on a web page. These are very common in social media feeds. They’re less obvious than display ads and are a great way to target customers who will not engage with an obvious display ad or use ad blockers.
Streaming video is a popular form of advertising that you have likely seen when watching YouTube. In-stream video ads pop up before, during, or after you view other video content online.
Streaming audio ads are placed in traditional broadcast radio and internet streams. You’ve likely heard one (or more) when listening to the free version of Spotify or Pandora. Since the popularity of podcasts and online music players has increased so has the popularity and growth of streaming audio.
This form of location-based marketing places a geographic boundary around a point of interest. When a mobile device enters this area, the geofence triggers the delivery of an advertising message. Push notifications are a great example of this. Have you ever been at the airport and a push notification pops up on your phone about your boarding pass? This is an example of geofencing. Geofencing can help you reach consumers at the best possible moment. Starbucks uses geofencing to advertise drinks to interested customers when they are close to the business. Most smartphone users think these notifications are random and don’t know about the geofencing that goes on behind the push notification.
Programmatic Direct Mail
Programmatic direct mail sends a traditional direct mail piece to an online visitor after they have taken a specific action on your website. This type of advertising enables you to specifically target the mail recipients – the people who are active and prospective targets – and the message. This automated process is fast, can strengthen engagement and drive conversions to help boost campaign ROI.
Media Planning for Digital
As the digital landscape has evolved, the process of media planning has evolved too. Media planning does not end once a media buy is completed and the proof of purchase is delivered. It’s an ongoing process: One in which media planners collaborate with digital strategists to continually optimize each placement to produce the best results.
“Media planning is a process that should live for the duration of a campaign to be nimble and make optimizations to the media plan as needed. Important to note: The relationship between media planners and digital strategists is close and collaborative. They work hand in hand.”
—Erica Brown, VP Integrated Media Services, Austin Williams
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About the author
Erica Brown is Vice president of integrated media services at leading marketing agency Austin & Williams where she is responsible for the planning, implementation, and management of strategic media plans for clients in the financial services, health care, and higher education fields.
Erica joined A&W from Nielsen where she was the lead acquisition strategist for their consumer panels. Before that, she held several media positions at full-service and media agencies in Manhattan primarily serving clients in the consumer-packaged goods, luxury, and beauty industries.
She earned her B.A. at Pennsylvania State University in Advertising. When not coming up with solid media strategies for clients, Erica spends time with her family in their Long Island home.