The Modern Media mix

The block plan is no longer fit for purpose. Richard Morris explains why, and six professionals working across the marketing mix reveal how all disciplines are intertwined.

Richard Morris
Richard Morris

When media was a subset of advertising, the planner's primary role was to put creative messages in places where the target audience was most receptive to them. The canvas on which hung the media planner's art was the block plan. A complex spreadsheet, complete with 8pt typeface, describing reach, frequency, costs and timing in the minutest detail. The colours used to denote each block of activity were often varied, but rarely dull. Yet the plan said little of strategy.

The digitisation of media has fundamentally changed the relationship brands have with people. Now brands must recognise people's ability to create and share as well as consume. In this new era of media, advertising is just one discipline the modern agency must plan for. Media is now sociable, searchable, convergent, transactional and, increasingly, addressable.

So what's happened to the media plan? Well, the block plan isn't yet extinct, but its numbers are diminishing and a new way of demonstrating the planner's craft has begun to evolve. In simple terms, the modern media plan must operate in the owned, earned, as well as the bought, spaces. Just as important as the individual activities are the spaces in between that link them together and, where appropriate, to commerce.

This means not starting with advertising but a flexible idea (as ever, born of great insight) that provides a platform for all marketing disciplines to work together effectively. Typically, these ideas are long rather than big and operate outside of the campaign burst approach so often associated with advertising.

When one of our clients wanted consumers to reappraise its brand, we provided a new experience of the product.

Our idea was to centre the campaign on a spectacular event, curated by consumers themselves and shown live via the brand's Facebook page, YouTube channel, TV and cinema.

We planned to build intrigue before the event through bought media, PR and on-pack promotions, directing consumers to sign up and shape the event through earned and owned channels.

Branded content would be cut and replayed through bought media and made available online for consumers to personalise. We would further sustain the dialogue through social media, mobile and eCRM programmes.

Such media strategies cannot sufficiently be described in a block plan. The new design categorises owned, earned and bought media elements.

It is structured across the strategic phases of the plan and describes the journey on which we would lead consumers through the campaign.

As complexity increases, so does the demand for better measurement; TV-bias measures of campaign performance are no longer fit for purpose. We must create bespoke measurement design to assess performance against the objectives and prove to clients the increased value of our strategies and all the elements they involve.

Are we there yet? No. Are we getting there? Yes.

Richard Morris is the deputy managing director of Carat


The media plan is becoming less a sprinkle of sugar on top, and more the spice that is baked right through the campaign cake. Experiential marketing is often viewed purely as a mode of amplification for a big advertising idea. It can certainly perform that role, but the experience is increasingly considered the brand idea itself, with the experience-led activity blown out through broadcast, PR, digital and social media channels. If a campaign has a live, human experience at its heart, the social fuel and interest is baked right into the idea from inception. It makes lighter work of the inevitable online and offline chatter that flows from something real and interesting.

YouTube, Facebook et al have lifted the curtain on brand activity, and the modern media plan should show its cards from the start. Authenticity is vital for brands - being open about the process can help, and can be really interesting for the consumer. The wave of reality advertising has already begun. Our recent work for O2 involved a personal performance by Tinie Tempah for one unknowing customer, Katie Hobbs. The event required 70 crew members to set up and document everything that happened. The casting was done for real through Facebook and, crucially, every frame of Katie's reaction was genuine. The whole process of how we kept it a surprise is available as an online documentary.

This may be viewed as "showing your knickers" to the world, but our job is to carefully construct the campaign so the PR, digital, social media and broadcast plans are immaculately timed to create a deep, immersive campaign that surprises and delights. Like any magic trick, the build-up has to be carefully considered, drawing in audiences as it unfolds - and the reveal has to be executed to perfection.


For a media plan to be fit for purpose in today's complex marketing mix, it must encompass all the relevant touchpoints available to the consumer. The mix is dependent on two things:- The behaviour of the audience the brand wishes to engage with. - The purpose of the engagement - acquisition, awareness, loyalty etc.

Achieving real consumer insights above and beyond simple observations requires a deep dive into a number of separate data sources, both transactional and behavioural. Such datasets include (but are not limited to): media consumption; existing consumer data from a CRM or eCRM perspective; onsite web analytics (what people are doing, how they access information and when); and related social media conversations (topics, keyword correlation, sentiment). The collation, correlation and analysis of this data can help businesses understand the who, what and why of consumer behaviour, brand association and motivation. This leads to insight into how the consumer path may be navigated and influenced. The output of this analysis will provide a much clearer view of how the modern media plan should be constructed, and how the various points of influence, from advertising to social to website, should be integrated.

The secondary benefit of this approach is the understanding of how each channel plays a part in influencing the consumer journey; not necessarily as individual channels, but the power of them being combined together. It also outlines the key measures to be monitored and, most importantly, in the correct context. Sometimes metrics are included because they are easy to measure, but these can be misleading and serve no real purpose. Understanding the consumer journey and what purpose each touchpoint plays enables the right metrics to be recorded and learnt from.


Not long ago, media plans regularly contained but a single line for "digital". That line has since become increasingly nuanced and fragmented with search, display, video, affiliates, partnerships and social all being separated according to their role.

But "social" covers a great range of different activities: Facebook ads; blogger outreach; video seeding; promoted Tweets; mobile check-in; social gaming; curation, and commerce. All have been represented by that line on a media plan. Each of the above can be used to deliver against different objectives, and we should expect the modern media plan to highlight which is relevant.

To be clear, though, great social campaigns are not about block lines on a plan but the advocacy you generate. It's hard to accommodate the complexity that will result in brand advocacy on a media schedule. If you were to think about the best social campaigns of recent years, you wouldn't think of the media used to promote them but the organic way they promoted themselves.

Successful social activations are those where the component parts of a marketing campaign - media, creative, PR, legal, CRM, customer service - work closely together to drive advocacy of brands or their products.

And the advocacy that results from doing this well does not get switched on and off between campaigns, it's sustained through the ongoing nurture of your fans and followers.

This implies operational investment in resources to manage your social platforms, develop policy and process for them, and a clear, long-term content strategy for engaging your current and prospective fans. Brands need to treat social as an always-on activity.

So, yes, social should feature in more detail on the modern media schedule. But you should be worried if that's the only place it features.


As TV producers, we are unused to thinking about media schedules and have traditionally put our belief in the power of good content to draw an audience. If we do our job right, so the argument goes, the audience will then decide where, when and how to engage with it.

As content producers, we have to think differently. TV can learn a lot from advertising, but when it comes to branded content, agencies and brands have got to think differently too. In TV we talk about building an audience, in advertising you talk about buying one. Branded content is, of course, a hybrid, but however much it owes to the world of brands and advertising, branded content simply can't acquire the audience, it has to earn it. Get it right and the opportunities are enormous - after all, TV is still the world's most powerful media platform, and a good show, brand-funded or not, is an appointment to view from here to Australia. Look at the success of shows such as MasterChef or The Cube; this type of "must watch" show drives engagement across all media and across all territories. With global hits like this, you don't need a media schedule, you just need to ride the wave of engagement.

Given how successful the global format business is, it still remains a mystery why most brands still only engage with TV through the spot ad, because however good that ad is, it is still too often an excuse to go and make a cup of tea. So Atomized is working with brands and agencies to try to change this, to put the brand at the heart of the story. We know that if it is a good story and if the brand enhances it, then the media schedule will write itself. In fact, you will be playing "catch-up" with it as it pulls you around the park.


Organic search cannot usually be found on a media plan. Why? Because unlike display ads or TV buys, organic search isn't switched on and off like other channels when the campaign starts. It is always on, and achieving top ranking cannot be bought, it must be earned. Many organisations forget about SEO in their planning and it costs them. Those that do remember it just as a campaign launches, usually by Googling their site and realising they can't find it on page one, find they are too late to fix the problem.

Using keyword data at the outset of a campaign provides marketers with valuable insights into how their consumers are searching for their products. A robust keyword audit shows marketers how consumers are already searching for their products and if previous campaigns had any impact on increasing interest.

We used keyword data to provide the foundational structure for RBS Recruitments' digital strategy and global job portal (jobs.rbs.com). Search data gave us the phrases that were most commonly used for job searches, and we applied this learning to build our experience, from search out. From our URL structure to our specific folders, headers and link-building approach, our strategy is built from understanding how our candidates search for jobs. The result has been high visibility across key terms and a steady flow of traffic whether or not we have a campaign running.

When we have a live campaign, we try to align closely with the SEM approach to ensure that we aren't buying terms that we already have top organic ranking for.

Organic search data needs to inform a media plan as it is being created, not just be another line item on it.


Mobile's growth means that it should now be viewed as the centre point of any media schedule because it has the ability to complement a TV, press or outdoor campaign, but with the added benefit of matching consumer behaviour with real-time data. It's time to move on from treating mobile as a last-minute "bolt on" to ensuring it is at the centre of any plan.

Traditional excuses such as lack of mobile content, measurement and the channel being untested are no longer valid, and forward-thinking brands have been embracing mobile for some time. Messaging can provide regional or national support to any press campaign, directly match a broadcast schedule or act as a communication vehicle between an outdoor campaign and the target audience. Whereas in the past, brands struggled to provide true consistency across different media channels, mobile is now able to act as the communication vehicle to do so.

Traditional media vehicles allow us to hit a particular audience, based on certain assumptions. What they cannot control is when this message will be consumed. It's pointless communicating to a grocery buyer when they are on their way to work; mobile has the ability to analyse real-time location and behaviour so a brand can hit the right person at the right time. As mobile redemption gathers pace, we will start to understand consumers like never before.

Mobile should be viewed as much of a brand platform as it is direct response. In the past, the decision was, generally, to take the easy option, pigeonholing mobile into a purely direct-response solution. However, it can drive footfall, play a valuable part in the purchase window and create message association for any client. Its unique proposition of being able to immediately reach the correct person with a relevant message means we should consider mobile when looking at any part of the marketing mix.