Media planners and strategists don’t ignore or exclude new titles, says Gordon Patterson. As the group managing director of Starcom MediaVest, he should know. Patterson was asked by Print & Digital Media South Africa (PDMSA) to clarify the role of media strategists and planners in the placing of advertisements. Representing the AMF, he presented his views at the recently held forum.
Responding to allegations that media planners ignore or exclude new titles in their strategies, Patterson said this was a “misconception”.
“I would like to contextualise the process that media planners follow, as the contribution and responsibility of a media agency is not always understood by new media entities be they outdoor companies, newspapers, magazines, radio stations or even television stations,” says Patterson.
He explained that media agencies are employed by clients and advertisers to assist in developing comprehensive communication strategies and channel plans to best deliver on the clients’ objectives, normally sales.
“The process of developing a strategy explores the communication objectives and delves into the mind of the target market to better understand the path to purchase. Research drives this process, both primary and secondary,” says Patterson.
The process defines and quantifies exactly who the target market is; the quantitative aspects that might inform the broader market in terms of their lifestyle etc; the intra-media decisions (platforms), and optimal media weightings etc.
“Thus, the media planning process builds on the client agreed strategy and defines the method of delivering on the strategy within set ROI/ROO objectives,” Patterson says.
During this stage of the process, in-depth analysis is undertaken to define the ‘best’, most cost efficient media choices that deliver on the objectives. The currencies used for decision making include, AMPS, TAMS, RAMS, TGI, ConsumerScope and client proprietary research and circulation data, to name the major research sources. All recommendations have to be substantiated and decisions verified by facts and strong motivations.
Media planners are not an extension of the media owner sales effort, but rather an objective filter to single out relevant opportunities. As a result, media agencies often encourage direct media owner/client contact, although this is not always welcomed by clients.
“Our industry is at the cutting edge of free enterprise and hence the level of competition is extreme. Any solution or media platform that offers a compelling advantage to the client will attract advertising support from media planners and acceptance from clients,” says Patterson.
“The list of new and well supported titles is well-known in the industry, however, new entrants that do not offer such advantages, fail to communicate adequately or do not have the currencies necessary for comparison, generally do not obtain the advertising support required for survival. Further, new entrants that do not have robust financial backing generally cannot sustain themselves long enough to establish market traction,” he adds.
Perspective to keep in mind
Patterson says that the following points should be kept in mind when it comes to media selection:
• Clients’ advertising budgets have not increased in line with media fragmentation. The same target market now costs more to reach.
• Clients’ brief determines the campaign focus.
• Clients ultimately decide if the strategy and media selection have been objectively and adequately motivated.
• The rise of procurement, as a critical value added initiative within many clients, has formalised the drive to return efficiency.
• Media decision makers are generally spoilt for choice, as few new entrants offer unique audiences. Audience duplication is not always considered by media owners.
• Most advertisers are under investing in digital media, which increases the pressure and barriers for new traditional media.
• Advertisers tend to be more risk adverse, hence they often have set policies to prevent decisions that are not objective, for example, no ABC no advertising; cautious support for new entrants – particularly if the owner has no previous experience or if the entity has no proof of performance; tight budget control (smaller/no ad-hoc budget) to ensure maximum leverage on larger media owners, i.e. group deals, and a ‘wait and see’ approach.
“Media planners do not set these policies,” says Patterson. His advice to new entrants is to:
· Ensure they have sufficient financial backing for a full fiscal.
· Understand the importance of offering a unique, defined and financially attractive audience…know your CPMs!
· Your priority is to satisfy your audience needs not advertiser requirements. With audience support comes advertiser investment. In print, circulation is democracy at work…no circulation no consumer support = low advertising.
· Make sure that the niche you’re targeting is large enough to be marketable.
· Communicate adequately with key decision makers.
· Have a launch plan with sustained effort.
· Time your launch to allow for selling to take place, inclusion into budgets and plans, and growth in market confidence.
· Engage with key industry currencies to support your sales effort. Exclusion often prompts suspicion.
“Remember that your existence alone does not guarantee a future, and your survival is your responsibility not the media agencies or the clients,” Patterson says.