Over the last decade, media has become more difficult to plan and it now requires more resources to execute. Iain Jacob captured this perfectly in a recent article for Campaign, “Executing a successful, compliant, competitive, well-measured media campaign has in fact never been harder”.

This has coincided with a well-documented drop in the effectiveness of creativity, see Peter Field’s “Creative Effectiveness is in Crisis” presentation from Cannes Lions 2019.

Meaning that media needs to pick up some of this slack.

Time and time again integrated, multi-media campaigns have been demonstrated to perform better.

However, budget and time constraints mean that marketing teams prefer an “EITHER OR” approach, instead of “AND” thinking. Objectivity and integrated planning skills are in short supply.

Media has also become less understood in this time. Within both marketing departments and agencies, bias has overtaken hard evidence, as well documented in Ebiquity’s Re-evaluating Media report.

Media is one of the biggest investments a marketing team will make in any financial year. It is therefore critical to ensure the effective return from this investment, and new thinking is needed for this to become more widespread across our industry.

10 ways to improve your integrated media planning and execution

  1. Know or learn what KPIs are lead indicators of brand health, sales, and future growth, then build your connections plan against these.
  2. Do not restrict reach with overly complex segmentation. Generally, the broader the reach the more effective the media performance is over the longer-term. However, reach within a demographic or buyer base is optimal. Targeting is more appropriate for niche products or those with clear consumer target audiences.
  3. Drop the perception that each media type can only do one thing. Marketers must move away from the old-school thinking of 'media fit', especially as the consumption of channels continues to fragment. This only constrains the planning and measurement of channel performance. (Likewise, know that not all impressions, views, and ratings are the same, even within the one channel.)

  4. Understand that consumer journeys are not linear (as sometimes interpreted by the marketing funnel), but do not over-complicate them when planning. Make communications clear and purchase easy.
  5. Co-ordinate plans between creative and media to align the campaign message, medium, and moment, in order to maximise peoples' connection with the campaign idea.
  6. Cut the demarcation and the reporting between channels. Why email marketing, (sometimes) search, content marketing, PR, Gaming, on-site CX, etc, are not part of the same plan as TV, Digital Video, Out-of-Home, etc, is beyond me. We’ve been talking about TTL (through-the-line) and omni-channel campaigns for the last 20 years.
  7. Balance channel best practices with new media opportunities and emerging trends.
  8. Understand that the performance of channel metrics is only a means to an end, not an end in themselves.
  9. Close gaps and cut duplication. There is a lot of waste in media plans, that measure and report stuff, but then put no action behind doing anything about them (viewability, fraud, poor attribution modeling, poor optimisation of messaging, AB tests), these have a cost and are only on plans for ‘optic purposes’.
  10. Move measurement to be forward-facing. Econometrics and media audits are guilty of being slow to compile and heavily backward-facing. The time-lag it takes to bring these assessments together often means they lack relevance by the time they are presented, as they miss key planning seasons and booking deadlines. This is simply not good, or fast, enough for today’s media landscape. Traditional media audits processes, in particular, have dated in this respect and exacerbated further by the limited view of marketing effectiveness they can capture. Both need an overhaul to remain valuable to marketing departments.

Budgets and timelines will continue to be restrictions, so marketing teams cannot afford to have any further lags on the effectiveness of media plans. And when done right, media planning and execution pays back at one and a half times its investment (Ebiquity, Thinkbox & Gain Theory Profit Ability study) and up to two times the investment (analysis of WARC case studies). And these positive returns are only based measurement over short-term, the numbers go up over the medium to longer term.

Most marketing departments know that new thinking is needed to improve their understanding media and increase the payback that this would deliver, but seem slow to act. One reason for this is that it isn’t easy, the other is this final thought from Mark Ritson, “Marketers can always justify their media choices and make such a good argument they fool the most critical audience of all – themselves”.