Doubling down on context
A view from John Paul Cadman

Doubling down on context

In the latest in Campaign's series of guest columns on the future of media planning, John Paul Cadman offers five key recommendations.

Context isn’t a new concept in media but, more than ever, agencies need to take action to make it more visible in their planning and activation processes. 

Much research has been conducted on the subject of context – by which we mean the environment within which advertising appears and/or the audience’s understanding at the time of exposure.

Put simply, we can see that it matters because it positively impacts the effectiveness of a piece of communication.

When an ad is delivered in the right context, consumers will spend more time looking at it, will perceive it to be more relevant and are more likely to trust the brand. 

All very powerful stuff, but it seems that we could harness the power of context to greater effect if we were more formal and systemised in our approach to developing plans.

We know that clients place a value on context. Increasingly, they are seeking to understand how we can use context to help build their brands.

Currently, this plays out as using context-related insights to drive planning decisions, such as moments of receptivity or outcomes that can be generated from a particular context, as well as heavy manual intervention at the implementation stage (mandating specific placements, for example).

Given the frequently pushed narrative that programmatic execution is the opposite of planning for context, it is somewhat ironic that any programmatic specialist will tell you that understanding performance related to context is a key part of optimisation and may even unlock some contexts that planning teams and clients hadn’t yet landed on.

Context has also been front and centre in several new-business pitches of late. At the extreme end, we have recently talked to a client who would like to co-create their media plan, placement by placement, and is willing to invest in the resource to do just that because they believe it is the right thing to do for their brands. 

As we look forward, it feels like there is an opportunity to remove some of the subjectivity around what constitutes the right context, speed up decision-making around optimisation related to context and apply it to as much of the media plan as possible. This could be done in a number of ways

Bringing context to the fore in the agency planning process

As teams answer a client brief, we must make sure that they have to investigate and make an objective recommendation on the most appropriate context(s), based on a number of inputs.

Developing a set of context metrics to guide investment decisions

There is an opportunity to develop tools that help teams identify the most relevant contexts for a given target audience, taking inputs from attention levels, media loyalty or trust in the media brand. 

Calling context out on the media plan that is delivered to clients

This sounds like an obvious point, but unless teams quantify the degree to which the plan has been optimised to context, the likelihood is that it is less than you might think.

Linking message to context 

This could be done through close collaboration with the creative agency or looking at the opportunity to use dynamic creative optimisation.

Building context into measurement plans

We should recognise that the importance of context will vary from category to category and from brand to brand, so teams should look to understand the impact of it on their plans to aid both in-flight optimisation and future planning. 

Intuitively, we know that context matters, but a systematic application of the understanding of context will lead to a greater level of involvement in the media planning process. This will not only make our day jobs more interesting, it will also help us deliver more effective recommendations to our clients.

John Paul Cadman is chief planning officer at Havas Group Media UK