- October 5, 2011

Planning for the Future of Media Planning?

Josh Chasin
Chief Research Officer

With so much attention in the digital display landscape currently focused on ad exchanges and RTB, there has been a great deal of speculation about what the future of media planning will look like. If you’ve read the media stories and listened to the industry keynotes, it would appear that we are moving ever closer to a world in which all media data will be available in the cloud, fancy algorithms will dictate trading-desk decisions and real-time buying and optimization will be the norm. Many of us who were raised on traditional media planning have probably wondered at one time or another, “What, then, will happen to media planning, and the human side of the planning process, as we know it?”

Like many of you, I’ve heard the questions, I’ve engaged in the debates, and I’ve considered the implications. I now want to share with you my perspective on why I think the future of media planning will be an effective integration and interplay of people-oriented and data-driven media intelligence.

Assembling a media plan has always been a human endeavor; it is the place in the process where the brand’s communication strategy becomes manifest as a media strategy. Who should the media target be? What media should we buy? What vehicle types? When should the schedule run? (Too often, a precise vision of the brand’s target customer ends up morphed into “Women 25-49” when the time comes to develop a media strategy.)

When the book on media planning was written (and there is a book, and we used it in grad school; here is the latest edition) there were five media—TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and billboards. And if you bought network TV, there were only 3 networks, and no cable. “Moms with kids” was a pretty sophisticated behavioral target. So, for a lot of brands, you put the money into TV, and if you wanted to get fancy maybe you allocated some to print, and then you punched out early and met Don Draper for cocktails.

Today though, the explosion in media platforms, vehicles and technology has rendered the media planning process far more complex, and as some would argue, too slow (and maybe too human) for today’s digital world. (We’ve all heard the horror stories about how 50 different Excel spread sheets are usually involved in the digital planning process and how surprisingly labor-intensive it remains to turn strategy into plan.)

Given all of this change engulfing the industry, we are left to wonder: Will the discipline of media planning as we know it fade into history in the wake of cloud computing and sophisticated real-time technology?

While some might argue that we’re already far down that path, I have a slightly different opinion. When I think about the ideal future state of digital (and cross-platform) media planning, I tend to think first about the fundamental discipline itself, and then I think about the tools. Oddly enough, in theory, I don’t think the ideal state of media planning has changed much since that book was first written.

Media planning, as a discipline, is still all about maximizing ROI in the service of communications goals. How do I get this creative messaging in front of the right consumers (reach) often enough (frequency) to accomplish my communications objectives? Given my target and my creative executions, what are the best media, and the best types of vehicles within those media, to deploy in meeting my objectives? What are the attributes of different media, how does my target experience these media, and what are my best choices to reach that target throughout the day, and throughout the purchase cycle?

We operate in a data-driven ecosystem, but I don’t think all that data should eliminate the need for strategic thinking; rather, it should fuel that thinking. Similarly, the toolkit should free up the media planner to bring all his or her creativity to bear in refining the plan. In an ideal media planning future, the media planner’s toolkit would accomplish the following:

  • Remove all rote work from the process;
  • Integrate all necessary data for the full spectrum of available buying entities (i.e., media vehicles as packaged, combined and sold);
  • Allow for scenario planning, hypothesis testing, optimization, and plan modification on the fly;
  • Let all of these functions take place in a single unified dashboard

As a digital media planner, you deserve nothing less.

Comscore is committed to making this vision of the ideal digital media planning process a reality, and we’ve got several things going on that get us—and you—closer than ever before. The most exciting part of realizing this vision is the launch of Media Planner 2.0, the next generation of our industry-leading digital media planning platform. Our agency team, product engineers and beta clients are pretty excited about it, too.

Media Planner 2.0 is a fully integrated, end-to-end workflow system that allows you to:

  • Perform all of your planning work on the cloud
  • Send RFPs, merge proposals and analyze packages seamlessly, while eliminating the need for 50+ spreadsheets
  • Build consideration sets based on demographic, lifestyle or behavioral targets so you can reduce ad-hoc trial and error
  • Perform optimizations to obtain the final media plan based on campaign parameters, such as budget or desired exposure
  • Eliminate unnecessary and inefficient communications and increase speed to market

Also, in the future we’ll be including audience data that leverages cookie-based targeting segments. So, if for example you’re building a media plan for an automotive brand, you can look at websites, ad network packages, and auto intender segments, and combine them into a single media plan with pre-buy reach and frequency—all in one place.

I posed the question above: will the cloud disintermediate media planning? I think the answer is a resounding “no.” As we’ll show with Media Planner 2.0, the systems will take advantage of the cloud to help you put multiple useful data sources to work for enhanced campaign optimization. If there is anything that’s getting disintermediated, it’s the need for 50 different Excel spreadsheets

In our view, media planning—and the media planner—is more important than ever before. A data-rich ecosystem doesn’t negate the need for sound design and implementation of media strategy—on the contrary, it elevates the importance of that strategy. We’re working to put 21st century planning tools into your hands, so that you can continue to drive the success of your clients’ brands.

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