Brand Connection takes 'instinct' out of media planning

It seems that parts of the media industry have become too frivolous for some. One agency chief executive (who wishes to remain anonymous) wrote to Campaign last week complaining that 'the industry is increasingly 'lost in Soho and Shoreditch spin' where, for example, we are under the impression consumers might be vaguely intrigued by silly little exercises in ambient wank', writes Ian Darby.

Now this might seem like the equivalent of writing to The Sun bemoaning the cultural diversity that immigration has brought to the UK, but the writer was making a serious point. In any case, he got me thinking about ways of distinguishing between a piece of good work and the type of "ambient wank" you wouldn't touch with a urinal sticker.

Subjectivity, inevitably, comes into the process and to me this is a good thing. However, the thinking at the media agency Brand Connection suggests we can take our personal whims and fancies too far. The agency has, in common with every other shop in town, been working on a new planning tool with a meaningless two-word title: Media Instinct.

But before you fall asleep, the idea is quite good. It involves polling an agency team before they put a media plan together to identify their own biases and personal media consumption. Brand Connection's argument is that planners, just like normal people, have preconceptions that influence media plans, sometimes to the detriment of the client.

The findings from the first Media Instinct survey tell us much about people in media agencies. While there are always exceptions, the research concludes that media planners are "expressive, intelligent and opinionated. They have high levels of self-confidence. Ambitious, competitive and easily bored." Apparently, all this is good, leading toward clever ideas and innovation.

So far, so good. But the research also shows personal tastes have a massive influence on the media plan. This is basic logic. For instance, without the support of so many fans in media agencies, it is hard to see Channel 4 commanding a 20 per cent share of TV ad revenue. However, it's still amusing to learn that 90 per cent of media planners would always include their own favourite paper as a major part of any press schedule. Planners who use the tube to get to work are 50 per cent more likely to include it on a national outdoor schedule. And so on.

Brand Connection claims that it is using the findings of each survey to bring a broader range of views and opinions into its planning process. It claims it will become more open-minded in its thinking. I don't know whether this is true or not, but the danger is that such an approach could obscure good ideas. After all, if media planners are such "expressive, intelligent and innovative" people, why not trust their instincts and biases in the first place? They're sure to be better than mine.

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