Media planning builds walls - audience planning builds bridges

Imposing old-school methods on new, sophisticated platforms makes no sense - and it has to change. The boundaries have to come down, argues Xaxis CEO Brian Gleason

Media planning builds walls - audience planning builds bridges

Brian Gleason, CEO, XaxisOver the last 20 years we have seen vast improvements in the tools that allow marketers to engage audiences – yet media planning has not kept pace. We still have teams that plan television, teams that plan mobile, teams that plan video, display teams, search teams, and so on. We haven't broken down the walls within media planning or the silos that exist between how we plan and how we think about media. This has to change – and it will come about through audience planning.

Audience planning enables the marketer to understand the consumer they want to reach, then tailor their message to that audience. A car manufacturer who wants to reach males aged 24-32 with an income of $100k a year needs to understand where that individual is going to consume media. A typical consumer could have up to four or five different devices; the first thing is to understand the relationship between those devices.

If they use Facebook and YouTube, I want to engage with them there. Then I want to understand if they have gone to Facebook first, and they’ve seen the mobile message prior to seeing the video on YouTube. If the same individual later watches TV on their Roku, I want to understand the relationship between that individual and the Facebook ad, the Google ad, and now the Roku ad. The next day they look for a car on a search engine – I want to understand that as well.

If I planned by silo, I wouldn't understand how that individual travelled between different media sources. Once you can understand that relationship, you can understand the sequencing, the messaging and the behavioural patterns of the individual – and you can begin to understand those patterns to elegantly insert your message at the most appropriate touch point.

Starting at the end
The metric has to be the first thing defined. Armed with KPIs, marketers can use the tools at their disposal to understand who they’re speaking to and which audiences the message resonates with.

At Xaxis we are continuously ingesting information using our audience engine Turbine, which allows us to engage with the consumer across different media types. Understanding the different signals allows us to sequence the message to them and then appropriately move campaign spend to the messages that resonate best.

Getting ready for change
So why hasn’t audience planning been adopted on a wider scale? It takes change on multiple levels. Traditionally, a planner allocates a certain amount of spend to different platforms at the start of a campaign. For audience planning to work, a marketer won’t know what media is going to be most effective when they begin a campaign. They need to be fluid at the beginning and allocate money towards the best performing media.

Everyone needs to have the same view into the performance of the campaign, built to the definition of the specific audience. Cross-communication between all planners is essential because it takes a massive effort to be able to provide unification across different media.

The marketing world has been set up in silos. The platforms that media companies have set up struggle to interact with one another, with each one speaking their own language, measuring success in their own way, and defining audiences differently. Advertising needs to break all of these silos down to get to a point where media planning is free of boundaries – a world where, regardless of where my customer goes, I can engage with them.

This means there should be no spend commitments by platform – we find where the customer is spending their time and where is the appropriate environment to engage with them.

Moving beyond silos
Fortunately, we are starting to see more cooperation. From agencies, we’ve seen a willingness to be able to move towards audience buying, exemplified by the growth of programmatic buying. From clients there’s an interest in changing how we plan. Connecting all this seamlessly will take more time but we are certainly on the right path.

In three years’ time, we’ll see cracks in the walls where companies realise we have to work together and can't be divisive in planning. We will see an increased layer of performance and true KPIs and measurements, which will drive us as we focus on performance as the key driver or indicator. In five years we’ll be using audience planning for 95% to 100% of what we are doing. Every piece of media is going to be based on actual audience.

Can you show that you are helping a client’s business? Those that can will succeed.

Four Steps Towards Audience Planning

1) Unify Data To Understand Who Is Your Audience.

2) Activate That Data Across All Digital Media.

3) Understand The Signal On A Visual-Based Platform.

4) Adjust Your Spend Appropriately On The Fly And Pivot Towards The Areas Resonating At The Highest Level.


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