TODAY’S AGENDA Digital media needs to be less perfect and borrow from the “art” of traditional media planning

Digital media needs to be less perfect and borrow from the “art” of traditional media planning

August 1, 2015 9:10 am Published by

Media planning for digital has become overly reliant on analysis and is prone to ignoring activity that delivers anything less than 100% confidence. Because of that, it is in danger of letting clients down argues Hannah Amess, Media Director at agenda21. Multi-device strategies and a less granular view of digital media planning means brands can more easily adapt to, and thrive in, the ever more mobile digital landscape.


In recent newsletters, we have touched upon some of the challenges in understanding and interpreting the increasingly fragmented & disjointed web journeys of the multi-screen consumer. I thought I’d develop this theme and explain why I believe that the spread of multi-device usage means that the fundamentals of media planning are more important than ever. And more than that, they are necessary to keep you ahead of the curve.


Two of these fundamentals are audience centric planning and the ‘art’ of media planning. I’ll explore both of these in more detail.

Audience centric planning

Recent research by comScore  notes that with the proliferation, and increased accessibility, of new devices, two-thirds of people online now access the internet using a PC/laptop and one other device. Typically that will be a smartphone or tablet.

RealView research from the IAB   shows that 54% of recent purchases made in the UK have involved a mobile device. Data from this study also revealed how increasingly consumers, of all age and demographic groupings, across the UK are using more than one device regularly – sometimes hand in hand – to do things more quickly or enhance their experience in some way. The deeper the decision making process, the larger the number, and frequency, of device usage gets. This phenomenon has more recently been termed ‘Omniscreening’.

Six out of every ten tablet owners say it’s their “go to” home internet device – cannibalising, to a degree, the desktop share during entertainment prime time. eMarketer stats from March this year summarises predicted time spent by media channel for 2014 – clearly demonstrating the dispersion of ‘online’ time across devices. As a whole digital is the single most consumed media in terms of time.


None of this should be headline news for those of us in digital. But in a world of audience-centric planning, there should be no excuse for failing to ensure brand presence across devices. There’s no shortage of excuses: will building the extra ad sizes is worth the extra cost; a lack of a proper mobile web presence; being unable to track every single touch point. But these can no longer be excuses for failing to embrace audience centric planning.  Numerous case studies, from the likes of Neilson, Microsoft to YuMe have shown that there is a clear synergistic effect from multi device campaigns when looking at ad impact measures. This makes sense right? If you’re visible in more than one place to a consumer, the stature of your campaign multiplies.

One of our finance clients was early to recognise this and is reaping the benefits of our audience-centric approach. Their affluent audience were in the vanguard of the move towards using multi-devices. In fact, recent research from the BBC  reveals that for the affluent, mobile devices are now the primary means of accessing the internet. An incredible 39% of affluent consumers accessing the web via their phone every hour during their day! Brand research we carried out for the client shows that for people exposed to our campaign on both desktop & mobile (tablet or mobile) devices, awareness and message association measures were almost triple that reported for those exposed to just the one alone.

There are a number of interesting tech developments in the display world which are trying to identify users across devices to help better deliver against the above solutions. None of these cross-device solutions are currently perfect – particularly in terms of the media you can buy at the end of the process. Nor are they potentially right for every advertiser. But this doesn’t mean we should be holding out for the perfect targeting solution or experience before embracing this opportunity. No other media waits for measurable, provable perfection – neither should we. Regardless of what media we’re booking, we should be thinking and planning around our audiences. The majority of our audiences use more than one device, so we have no choice but to reflect that in our buying.



The “art” bit of media planning

Media planning, at its best, is both art and science – the former component being defined as a ‘the act of informed judgement’ based on both a combination of experience & interpretation of available data. This is a fundamental principle that has been followed since the start of media planning and is still massively relevant today.

The art in digital media planning, a discipline where granularity often carries more weight than insight, is too often contested. This could be due to the lack of hard, joined-up data aligned to a specific action, or worse, micro data insights that paint an incomplete, and potentially misleading, picture. This entrenched attitude is the Achilles heel of the digital media world.

For some advertisers, the spreading grey area around the directly attributable contribution that each screen delivers remains a barrier. It’s particularly difficult for those with hard direct response goals.

The latest PWC digital ad spend report,  released earlier this month, shows the Consumer Goods category is out-stripping all others in terms of digital ad spend. I don’t doubt for a second that this is because FMCG is a category that “gets” the art of media planning and treats it as a vital component of planning. Moreover, this is a category heavily investing in video online – a channel where there is a growing body of research which demonstrates the synergies that can be had through building a multi-device presence. It not only extends light TV viewer reach, but also improves campaign impact.

There is a compelling body of information out there pointing us in the direction of multi-screen, but, for advertisers that have become used to tracking every detail, making the leap to incorporating an ‘informed judgement’ into their thinking is proving to be a step too far.



Source: IAB/PWC


“Audience and Art”

I think we can learn a lot from the Consumer Goods category, who, by the nature of their products, have to rely more on traditional media planning principles to hit their goals.  This accelerated growth in display investment wouldn’t be happening if the bottom line figures weren’t positively impacted. Focusing on the bigger picture – our audience and what end shift we’re trying to affect – is still important.  And a multi-device approach sits at the heart of this. It’s as important as any other media that are core to our specific audiences. There are pockets of brands, such as our finance advertiser, who are embracing “audience & art”, but many more that are not. To those who are reluctant step back and look again at their approach to planning digital media, I’d say that this is an exciting time, with growing opportunities that we should all be looking to embrace. Even if it means you have to step away from the comfort of granularity and tracking all activity with near 100% confidence.

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//by Jenna Aarons