How to Evaluate Your Agency’s Media Plan
When developed thoughtfully and strategically, a media campaign can help your brand achieve performance goals at a level that organic media alone simply cannot deliver. As you seek to determine whether your advertising agency has presented a plan for an effective paid media campaign, there are several questions to ask yourself.
- Does the targeting criteria reach the target audience?
- Do the proposed platforms align with your brand and audience?
- Is there a plan for evaluating success?
- What are your competitors doing?
- Is there an optimization plan?
- Are there opportunities for earned media?
Asking yourself these questions helps to ensure that a media plan is as tactical as possible, and delivers the greatest opportunity for success. Below we explore these questions in more depth.
Does the targeting align with your current and/or prospective audience? A strategic targeting approach is crucial to the success of any media plan. This may seem like common sense, but advertisers can often get caught up in the numbers game, focusing more on securing as many impressions as possible, rather than ensuring meaningful saturation that leads to the ultimate action, a conversion. Impressions, though a weak metric anyway, mean even less if your messaging is not reaching the right people. Targeting capabilities, especially across digital media, are now more advanced than ever, so advertisers would be remiss not to leverage them as strategically as possible. Want to exclusively target a 44-year old woman who has four kids and shops at Whole Foods? Now you can.
Do the proposed platforms make sense for both your brand and your audience? An agency shouldn’t recommend buying media on a platform that is popular among your audience but doesn’t make sense for your brand. For instance, if your target audience is young college students, your media plan shouldn’t focus too heavily on traditional print advertising; conversely, you shouldn’t spend money on Snapchat in the hopes of reaching your 50+ audience demo. Consumers, especially Millennials, are becoming more and more weary of blanketed advertising, and are quick to disengage with a brand which appears disingenuous in their marketing efforts. According to a 2015 Forbes study, nearly half of Millennials ranked authenticity as more important than the content itself, ahead of several other factors. This means that if an ad placement doesn’t feel right to a consumer, they aren’t going to take the time to open, read or engage with your content. As a result, these irrelevant media buys will only yield poor ad performance and higher cost-per metrics.
Depending on the type of content, there should usually be a mix of traditional advertising, such as print and radio, with digital advertising like social media and SEM. Of course, certain creative will warrant a more niche, focused media plan, but a combination of the two is typically most effective. This will ensure your media dollars are working as efficiently as possible while also reaching consumers with diverse messaging through a variety of mediums.
Does your agency have a measurable way to evaluate success? No two media plans are alike; therefore, campaign performance reports should not all reflect the same KPI’s. For instance, a media campaign that is promoting video ad content should measure video view-through rates and cost per video view, while CTA campaigns should focus on maintaining a low cost per conversion. Again, impressions are a weak value metric and shouldn’t be the sole indicator your agency uses to measure strong campaign performance. In many cases, unique user reach and the resulting engagements, tells a more accurate story of how many people were exposed to your content.
Are you playing in the same space as your competitors? It may seem counterintuitive to be buying ad space right next to your competitors, but in order to obtain a portion of the SOV (Share of Voice) pie, this is exactly where you should be. It also explains why multiple advertisers drive costs up; the familiar adage is true: you have to pay to play. To remedy your messaging getting lost in a cluttered marketplace, consider running dayparted media so that people are being exposed to multiple unique messages throughout the day. For instance, dayparting a radio buy allows a consumer to hear a different message on the drive to work than they do on the commute home. This will ensure that your content reaches a high resonation among consumers while also rising above the noise of competitors. That being said, your agency should strategically utilize frequency capping so that unique user reach remains large and the same people aren’t receiving the same messaging multiple times.
Does your agency have an optimization plan? A truly great media plan is one that is fluid and accounts for ongoing changes in the marketplace. While you may be locked in to certain traditional ad placements for the full investment, digital media is much more adaptable. Your agency should be consistently monitoring campaign dashboards and evaluating performance to assess when optimizations should be made. For instance, if one ad placement is underperforming, your agency should make a timely decision to adjust budget allocations accordingly and funnel more dollars into the better performing placements. Additionally, A/B testing should be executed in order to test different creative and, if the length of the campaign warrants it, optimizations can be made. This type of testing is ideal when the campaign is running constantly for at least one week.
Opportunity for earned media growth? More and more, brands are beginning to view paid media as a way to leverage both organic and earned media. One of advertising’s biggest success stories is when a campaign not only pays for itself, but continues to generate growth and interest even when paid media is no longer running. Word of mouth and social sharing that results from a digital media buy can lead to increased user reach and conversions that a brand isn’t even paying for. Take Pinterest for example: if a brand launches a Promoted Pins campaign and several people re-pin the content, the brand will continue to reap the benefits via earned media impressions and engagements long after the campaign has ended due to the nature of Pinterest and its user algorithm. That content is still being seen, experienced, and shared by people who may have never been exposed to the content via paid media. As a result, earned media makes paid media even more powerful and cost effective.
Check out our Guide to Paid Advertising, where you can download our cheat sheet to the best channels for digital advertising.