May 14, 2018, posted by iq

A Best Practice Guide to Paid Media Effectiveness

Creating a strategic paid media plan is crucial to any advertising campaign’s success. Many factors play a role in determining the overall effectiveness of paid media, including the type of content displayed, as well as how, when and where. No two media plans are created alike, as each (should) have a unique strategy and approach. When planned comprehensively and holistically, a solid paid media plan can exceed a brand’s advertising goals and objectives.

How to Create a Media Plan

How to Create A Media Plan | Paid Media Trends | Best Practices | Digital Ad Agency | IQ Agency

Define campaign objectives.

This step may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s crucial that there is alignment between the brand and media partner regarding campaign goals and objectives and the strategy by which advertising will be used to achieve these goals. Both the content and channels should help advertisers meet these objectives. On the other hand, it’s important not to have too many objectives for any one paid media plan. For instance, if the primary goal is to drive website traffic to a microsite, all ads should ultimately lead users to that site. Don’t design your ads to keep people on your Facebook page if the campaign objective is to drive outbound traffic to your website. Remember that consumers can get overwhelmed easily, especially when their attention is already pulled in so many different directions on a daily basis. Make it as easy for them as possible to engage with your advertising by keeping CTA’s short and concise with a clear message that directs users to take a specific action.

Let the content lead.

Many advertisers make the mistake of thinking that they should select the paid media channels to advertise their content on before even deciding on the content itself. However, this can result in a lack of authenticity when you try to create content to fit a particular platform, rather than the other way around. Determining the type of content that will help spread your message, such as a microsite or video pre-roll, needs to be done before other pieces of the puzzle can be put in place.

If you haven’t yet solidified a creative concept, start with your goals and objectives and move forward from there. For example, if your business is launching a new product line, consider developing video content that introduces the new product. Additional creative, such as a landing page and pre-roll can be created to help support the message and provide customers with an end destination after engaging with your ad.

Select paid media channels and ad placements.

When selecting the channels that make the most sense for your media plan, don’t let your brand voice and tone get lost in the decision. Picking a social media platform because it’s new, trendy, and your target audience uses it may seem appealing, but it may not be the wisest choice or most efficient use of ad dollars. It’s important to choose instead the channels that align with your brand and make the most sense for your particular message. Brands should always aim to be as authentic as possible in both their messaging and the way they deliver this messaging to their audience. When a channel is the right fit for a brand, advertising becomes more seamless and less intrusive, which in turns increases the likelihood that customers will engage. For instance, a banner advertising home décor on acts as a supplement to the website content, even enriching the user experience.

The number of channels you select will depend on several factors, such as your overall budget and how long you plan to have your media in market. It’s important not to spread content too thin by trying to be on as many channels as possible. Instead, it’s more effective to pick a smaller number of platforms on which you can have a significant impact, as this will help better saturate that particular market. When selecting specific ad positioning, do your research on each channel to figure out which placements will garner you the biggest bang for your buck. Most digital platforms have multiple ad products to choose from, but only one or two will make the most sense for your particular campaign. For instance, Twitter’s ad suite includes several different Tweet Cards that have been designed specifically for the desired end-result, such as a website conversion or video view. Also know whether to run your digital advertisements across mobile, desktop, or a combination of the two. We will dig deeper into each channel in a later section.

Calculate the estimated reach of your campaign.

You can calculate the estimated number of people that will be exposed to your advertisement before your campaign even begins. Of course, you should expect to account for fluctuations due to marketplace competition or low ad inventory, but this will give you a general sense of how many unique users you can expect to reach with your advertising. When purchasing digital paid media, most platforms will provide an estimated audience reach size when the campaign is being set up. Make sure that your media partner communicates these numbers to you, and is capable of making adjustments if needed to maximize the scale of the campaign.

In traditional advertising, an agency can calculate roughly how many people will see your TV commercial using a Gross Rating Points (GRPs) calculation. We calculate this by multiplying the reach of the ad by the frequency, or the number of times each person or household is exposed to the ad. Knowing the GRPs for a particular market can inform whether your dollars will be spent efficiently, or if they should be shifted into a different designated market area or DMA.

Outline audience targeting.

Once the channels and ad placements are determined, your media partner should define what different audience groups they will be targeting with your content. This targeting is what makes paid media advertising so exciting and unique; with strategic targeting, brands can reach untapped audience segments that organic media alone cannot. Campaigns can be targeted as niche or as generic as a brand wants – just be sure that your targeting net isn’t cast too narrow or too wide.

Targeting capabilities vary depending on the channel, but constant technological advancements mean that advertisers can be more accurate than ever before. Common strategies include demographic targeting, such as selecting people of a particular gender and age who live in a specific geo-location. SEM targeting strategies include selecting keywords, popular search terms, and phrases that align with your content and are popular among your audiences. Competitive conquesting can be used to target people who are interested in your competitors or similar brands. Interests and behavior-based targeting allows advertisers to deliver an ad to someone who likes a particular good or service or adheres to specific consumer habits. Additionally, website retargeting allows you to deliver an ad to people who have previously visited your website, which increases the likelihood of engagement as they have demonstrated through past behavior that they have an interest in your brand.

Allocate budget and campaign flight dates.

When determining what portion of your overall media budget to allocate to each channel, your agency should factor in the cost per click (CPC) and cost per thousand impressions (CPM) rates for those channels. Some platforms are more cost-effective, and your dollars will go further on certain channels than others. Ensure the budget allocated to each channel is enough to meet the satisfactory delivery requirements, understanding that you can always make mid-campaign budget adjustments. For instance, if one channel is performing better than another, delivering more clicks and a lower cost per click, consider reallocating a percentage of the budget into that platform. While some platforms require a minimum up-front investment, many are more fluid and don’t require a minimum ad spend.

When applicable, consider an “always on” strategy in which paid media is constantly running throughout the year. This keeps your content consistently in front of audiences while creating a clean and clear picture of performance fluctuations, which can help inform future campaign decisions. Conversely, if there is a specific time of year or season in which your brand is more popular, focus your efforts and dollars during that period. For instance, a company that sells outdoor patio furniture should primarily run media campaigns leading up to and during the summer months.

Look to past media performance to garner insights.

The analysis conducted after a campaign has ended is extremely beneficial in informing future campaign initiatives. When creating a new media plan, always take a look at prior media performance as the insights gained will help make future recommendations more tactical and strategic. Take note of the channels that performed best, the type of content that resonated most with your audiences, and the targeting that garnered the most engagement with your ads.

Let’s face it; you’re busy and more than likely you depend on a media partner to manage your paid advertising efforts. It can be a challenge for many marketers to evaluate a presented media plan. 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. Will the right people see my content? Do the recommended channels make sense for my brand? How do I know my dollars are being utilized efficiently? The checklist found in our post: “How to Evaluate Your Media Plan” was designed to help ensure that a media plan is as tactical as possible, and delivers the greatest opportunity for success.

Paid Media Guide | Media Effectiveness Best Practices | Digital Ad Agency | IQ Agency


How to Measure the Effectiveness of Paid Media

With the ever-evolving landscapes of both digital and traditional advertising, brands can track their media campaigns more closely than ever. For many, the sheer amount of data can be overwhelming as brands try to sift through the numbers to zero in on what metrics matter as true indicators of success. Media advertising has altered the way companies measure ROI, while also equipping them with the tools and insights that will help make future marketing efforts even more effective. When determining the success of a media buy, and knowing how to plan future campaigns more strategically, it’s crucial to evaluate several key performance indicators, or KPI’s.

It’s important to define the complete list of metrics that will be evaluated both during and post-campaign before the media buy even begins. This not only ensures alignment among both the brand and media agency regarding the goals and objectives of the campaign but also establishes any applicable optimization parameters. For example, when running a video campaign, your media agency should keep a close eye on Cost Per View and Video Completion Rate metrics. If these numbers are too high and too low, respectively, the agency should optimize the campaign accordingly, adjusting the target bid or rotating in a new version of creative. Measuring media effectiveness is just as important during the campaign as it is after the campaign has ended because it allows advertisers to make adjustments in real time that can improve ad performance.

Before identifying performance metrics that you should evaluate, it’s necessary to call out the metric that shouldn’t be measured. “Impressions” has been a major buzzword in the advertising industry for years, likely because it makes a paid media buy seem far more impressive than it is, and gives brands a false sense of comfort that their money is going further than it is. In reality, any media planner worth their paycheck knows that impressions are a useless metric, and may even cringe at the word. Why? Simply put, impressions are not an accurate reflection of the reach and performance of your media buy. We know that countless ad impressions aren’t even served to real people. Impressions become irrelevant when no one engaged with your ad, clicked your banner or visited your website. Furthermore, now that most advertising platforms have videos set to auto-play with the option to skip over longer form pre-roll, impressions have become even more inflated and insignificant.

What matters far more than impressions is the unique reach or the number of individual users exposed to your ad. For example, if a commuter passes by your billboard to and from work every day for a week, that’s calculated as ten impressions when in reality, one person saw your advertisement ten times. While the number sounds impressive, impressions are just a misrepresentation of exaggerated media performance.

By tracking the below performance metrics, your paid media campaign can be optimized for efficiencies in-flight, as well as benchmarked for future advertising initiatives.


  • View-Through Rate: calculated by dividing how many people watched the video by the reach of the ad. Pro tip: If this metric is low, consider rotating in a new version of creative that has a strong CTA placed at the beginning of the video
  • Video Completion Rate: measured as the percentage of video views that reached 100% completion
  • Quartile Viewing: measured as the percentage of video views that reached 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% completion. Pro tip: This metric is particularly valuable for long-form video content as it can identify when the majority of users dropped off. For instance, if the completion rates drop substantially after the 25% completion mark, consider running video that is shorter in length, such as 15-second pre-roll rather than skippable 60-second pre-roll
  • Cost Per Video View: calculated by dividing the total spend of the campaign by the total number of video views
  • Cost Per Completed View: calculated by dividing the total spend of the campaign by the total number of completed video views

Display & Search

  • Reach: the number of unique users served your ad
  • Frequency: the number of times an ad is served to the same person. Pro tip: In most cases, ad frequency shouldn’t exceed 3 or 4, especially if the campaign flight is short. Frequency capping ensures that the same ads aren’t being served numerous times to the same person
  • Cost Per Click or Cost Per Action/Engagement: calculated by dividing the total spend of the campaign by the number of clicks or actions taken on the ad
  • Click-Through Rate: how many people were served the ad vs. how many people clicked on the ad
  • Engagements and Engagement Rate: how many people were served the ad vs. how many people engaged with the ad via a like, comment, share, etc. This is a popular metric predominantly used when advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Website Conversions and Website Conversion Rate: how many people were exposed to your ad vs. how many people visited the website
  • Cost Per Website Conversion: calculated by dividing the total spend of the campaign by the number of website conversions
  • Cost Per Acquisition: calculated by the total spend of the campaign divided by how many new customers were generated during the campaign. In lead generation campaigns, this is identified as Cost Per Lead; in social fan acquisition campaigns, this is identified as Cost Per Like/Follower


  • Gross Rating Points (GRPs): calculated by multiplying Reach and Frequency, which is the number of individual users who are exposed to the ad multiplied by the number of times the ad will be shown
  • Target Rating Points: Gross rating points multiplied by the ratio of a specific target audience to the total audience exposed to the ad

In addition to measuring the above quantitative metrics, brands can also evaluate the effectiveness of their paid media advertising by conducting several qualitative tests. This type of data extraction can include customer surveys, interviews, and focus groups, as well as brand awareness tests. This type of sentiment analysis identifies ad favorability, purchase intent, and message recall that customers have after being exposed to an advertisement. This information is beneficial because it not only provides a brand with direct insights into the thoughts and feelings of its target audience but also informs a brand in the way that raw data alone cannot. While more objective and less concrete, when combined with the metrics as mentioned earlier, these insights can also help determine the overall effectiveness of a brand’s media advertising.

Lastly, no campaign should be measured by individual channel performance metrics alone. Media’s contribution to larger conversion goals should also be measured. For example, if your primary objective is to increase sales, you could track website purchases that resulted from an ad referral.

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