The Year Ahead For...Media planning, Thursday, 10 January 2013 08:00AM

The Olympics, Jubilee and Euros are behind us, but media planners won't suffer a hangover in 2013, Stuart Sullivan-Martin says.

Stuart Sullivan-Martin: ‘We’ll need to keep one foot tapping along to the rhythm of big new developments in our industry. While we can’t predict what’s going to be the next Gangnam, Mobot or Fenton, we can place some bets’

Stuart Sullivan-Martin: ‘We’ll need to keep one foot tapping along to the rhythm of big new developments in our industry. While we can’t predict what’s going to be the next Gangnam, Mobot or Fenton, we can place some bets’

Some are calling it "Empty ’13": consumer confidence stalling, continuing trouble with the euro and no Olympics, European Championship or royal nuptials to raise the nation’s spirits. The sombre beat of the double-dip.

Except, in media, it doesn’t feel that way. Our feet are tapping, because it has never been easier to find the rhythm of consumer behaviour and create ideas that put the brand and the audience in sync.

The planning fundamentals remain the same: insights, ideas and the desire to test new opportunities. But there’s a new group of super-boffins to help: the social listening team, the data analysts, the search pointy-heads and the mobile evangelists.

For the media planner, this ultimately means the chance to help brands and their users get more in tune. And the lack of big cultural events in 2013 (which some brands use to try to crowbar their way into the zeitgeist) will be a blessing in disguise.

We will spend less time trying to interrupt and disrupt, and more time helping brands "go with the flow": understanding the patterns of behaviour and finding ways for brands to be relevant, helpful and responsive.

So, hopefully we’ll see more and more ideas like "Day One" from Prudential in the US (a refreshingly new take on retirement that celebrates the 10,000 people who retire every day) and Nike+ "Bid Your Sweat" in Mexico (where you trade your running kilometres for the chance to win Nike products). And less matching luggage.


Insight, but smoother
You’re probably reading this around mid-January, with Christmas turkey a memory on the lips but stubbornly persistent on the hips. If you haven’t set a New Year’s resolution already, the evidence suggests you probably won’t. Search tells us there’s typically a ten-14 day window starting just after Christmas Day, which is critically important if you’re the Department of Health and want to help people make the most of their good intentions. Search is a big quantitative playground if you’re looking for patterns.

And while behavioural economics has been on our lips for a few years, on the whole we are still in an industry fixated by "attitudinal persuasion".

But the truth is some of the old rules are broken. Attitude often follows behaviour (not the other way around), and we are just suckers for copying what other people think and do. As a result, it shouldn’t be surprising that Smart cars in China have been sold via Groupon deals online.

So AIDA is dead, and alongside what we’re learning from search data and social media, this new insight is changing the shape of purchase journey thinking for good.

Ideas, but faster
In 2013, there will be plenty of opportunities to create big and small ideas fuelled by technology and data. The question is: how nimble can we be?

The Guardian recently announced a small but significant behavioural switch: between 6am and 7am, more people are accessing its digital products from mobile phones and tablets than desktop computers. Typically, mobile devices account for just under 35 per cent of all visits to its digital products. Metro found in 2012 that "swipe" technology on its digital products boosted interactivity across all platforms by up to 55 per cent. The dynamics of media consumption are changing and our challenge will be one of flexibility: generating small tailored solutions in an iterative way across multiple platforms.

I think we should expect big ideas to be different too. 2013 could be the year that "real time" actually lands.

By that, I mean nimble solutions that take advantage of the technology in our daily lives, react to events as they happen and track performance as it develops rather than after the event. So more initiatives like Stoptober, the 28-day quit-smoking event in autumn last year that used social media to reward and encourage individuals, organisations and communities; and "Small Business Saturday", American Express’ community movement to celebrate small businesses.


Innovation, Gangnam-style
And finally, in addition to the rhythm of people’s lives and the rhythm of the ideas we create, we’ll also need to keep one foot tapping along to the rhythm of big new developments in our in­dustry. While we can’t predict what’s going to be the next Gangnam, Mobot or Fenton, we can place some bets.

And one bet that I’ll be keeping an eye on is Sky’s trial scheduled for August. If it goes ahead as planned (and it has been promised for a while), it could be the mother of all tipping points: the launch of addressable advertising in linear (ie. non-video-on-demand) TV programmes. Seven-and-a-half million homes will have the opportunity to receive tailored TV copy. This could challenge the fundamentals of TV ad planning and production itself.

Here’s to 2013: more insights, ideas and innovation. But now with rhythm.

Stuart Sullivan-Martin is the chief strategy officer at MEC

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