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Simon Akers: Don’t let the tail wag the dog when it comes to media planning

By Simon Akers, CEO of Archmon and NDA columnist

Is it me or is the art of objectivity and pure planning getting harder to sell than ever?

You see, it is all too easy now for media buyers, especially advertisers to be beguiled by the supremacy of the digital media owner/vendor, especially the walled gardens and their suite of new ‘creative solutions’ and ‘brand solutions’. Of course, we are coming off a week of commentary in Cannes of the need for better creative which will drive better performance, as the adtech players that have dominated the riviera this year are finally realising optimisation and performance alone won’t cut it. Eureka!

Sensible planning in the face of the big tech. The challenge

It is important to be aware of how the tech platforms are increasing their own suite of tools to tap into the brand budgets and become more creative. The tail is getting stronger!

TIkTok are launching a new ad brand partnership product. Branded Mission will allow creators to connect with brands and crowdsource their videos for ads. Pinterest are launching Idea Ads to coincide with the browsing mentality of the user and is ideal for both brand awareness and consideration campaigns. Amazon – are continually innovating their branded ad solutions, testing live shopping and social selling in US, and have just launched their Beta API to help towards improving their reporting and measurement which, for those of you know, can be limited to say the least.

On the shiny and new – Instagram is continuing and growing its NFT test to more creators, and Meta as a whole opening up ways for creators and influencers to make more money from a consideration (and arguably performance) standpoint. And Snap’s recent research is that shipping returns are lower on ecommerce sales if AR was used first at the consideration stage. 

Their ad formats and strategies are heading all in the right direction, but they themselves do not lead that direction.

Absolutely consider full funnel options from big tech, but hold on to the leash.

If the big tech firms had their way they would gobble up all the budgets. Take Google’s new Performance Max product for example – the alleged panacea for cross digital platform activations. Conjecture aside it seems like a little too early to call the efficacy of it.

There are a handful of sizeable media agencies truly championing it, and it is easy to see why, a neat one-click utopia for those who want to optimise and manage a suite of digital marketing practices, though dare I say it, it is not right for everyone, especially those who are nailing it on certain platforms, and in migration valuable insight used for optimising and planning may well be banished.

My hope as well is that the agencies getting behind it will want to truly add value, and in doing so will exercise their duty of care to warn of the pitfalls and to take certain elements with a pinch of salt, especially clients who have more advanced measurement and performance in place already. Generally its commentators agree that you should not be too quick to jump into bed with it, but you can bet plenty will, given how easy Google make it all. Stickability- be warned.

What do all the above have in common?

They are digital first, and inherently due to their simple measurability have become performance first, and have not always given a hoot about incrementality and reach for brand awareness. The Reach & Frequency buy on Facebook was one of my first furores into reach planning via social, and now across the ecosystems it is catching on. No doubt as a result of having heard enough drum beats from the advertising world on the importance of the 60:40-esque brand building need for true long term prospecting and ultimately effectiveness.

Rather – let the Dog wag the tail – plan audience first

Good media strategy is rooted in the need to deliver the message of the product at scale to the audiences who need to hear about it, and with precision targeting if need be. Therefore, a truly holistic plan will take into account overview of the media opportunities regardless of platform, and will enable planners to deliver the best integrated plans rather than arbitrary platform first decisions.

Big platforms would love this different of course, as the likes of Google and Amazon have a direct to brand sales strategy to own the full suite and bypass agency buys. When thinking about the purpose of the campaign e.g. brand awareness, don’t just be thinking traditional channels and then just digital channel for performance.

Both do both. Just plan the audience first, and it may well be the TikTok audience is more akin to your market than a Facebook one, but that is OK, because you made that decision, not them, to get the incremental reach. Also measure it like you would a brand awareness campaign if that is what it is, not what random measurements or performance/consideration metrics are on said platform’s dashboard.

Now go forth, take the lead and walk that dog!

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