Media Planning Without Fear In 2018

"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Bryan Noguchi, media director at Caffelli.

Media people, what are we going to get out of 2018? What are the battles we’ll choose to engage in, and why?

I really mean this: Anyone planning on having a year similar to last year or the year prior is either so close to retirement that extinction doesn’t matter (congratulations, I’m totally jealous) or simply refusing to create change. It goes without saying: No one wants to be the latter.

So, I’ll go first. Here’s my plan for this year.

Demand Value

I don’t want more for less, and I sincerely hope that we’re finally done with the race to the pricing bottom. I want a deeper understanding of the role my media plays in success and the proof that supports our decisions, including the bold ones.

While “bold” implies unnecessary risk, proof is a hallmark of responsibility. We shouldn’t be shy about risk, but I’m not spending my own money when I place media; I spend clients’ money, so I have a responsibility to reduce risk and balance it with potential reward. That said, some aspect of every recommendation should make you at least a little uncomfortable.

The question right now, of course, is are we so hemmed in by “safety” and “compliance” that value will be hard to find? Or are these now the primary guarantors of “value”?

Safety now clearly means both “position” and “context” insofar as we are trying to control for both viewability and proximity to unpalatable content. But this has somewhat devolved into a negative targeting space, and we’re still paying a little premium for it in spots where it should now simply be table stakes.

I think “compliance” is a factor whose effect remains to be seen, as we sort though both our and our clients’ readiness for GDPR. My gut tells me that a lot of advertisers, agencies and vendors are going to get blindsided in May, but that it could also restore some rigor to how we plan. Opacity will be an even harder thing to tolerate, but so will our willingness to ignore deeper details; part of me hopes GDPR will trigger a little planning renaissance.

These core issues aside, I want more insight into how media connects clients with their audiences and, most importantly, I want to ensure that they both win for having made that connection. What will I be able to say about the quality of that connection? I don’t think the core value exchange between advertiser and audience has changed, I just want to be better at achieving and expressing it.

Create Change

I’m at the point where I want to reinvent how we as an industry approach media. I’ve been thinking this and maybe even saying it for a while now, but this time, I’m just going to do it, even if I have to start small. And there are people and organizations way ahead of me on this front, which gives me courage.

What are we going to do differently this year? I like that everyone seems to be all hot on audience again, but I worry that we’ve started to take ourselves out of the equation when it comes to planning against audience delivery – it’s too easy to tick a couple of boxes and assume that my campaign is now “targeted.” Historically, that targeting automation has decoupled media from message (or at least ignored the relationship), and I’m glad that some people aren’t afraid to get back under the hood.

Think about what Conde Nast is doing with Spire: allowing insight and behavior to drive decisions. I feel like it’s been a decade or more since anyone actively defended the value of context, but now the data seems to be there, and the systems to manage and interpret it have caught up, so here we are. It feels good to be reintroducing this into the mix.

I’m also starting to believe that I’ve been thinking about the relationship between social media and paid media wrong. It’s hard to describe: I feel like a lot of my career has been spent looking through the wide end of the telescope, and while I’ve appreciated the wide field of view, this has effectively made big things small. But the purpose of a telescope is to make a distant thing big – to amplify the available light.

That’s what feels like the key: amplification. And that’s my 2018: How will my media plans amplify? Amplify messages, amplify earned media? I’ve decided that maybe my paid-media programs don’t have to be the things unto themselves and should instead be designed to create big ripples in smaller bodies of water.

There are a lot of interesting new tools out there that I think can help – and they’re not, strictly speaking, media tools – they’re really social tools. I’ve had the opportunity recently to work with one called Affinio, for example.

Right now, using it as a media audience tool is a little like building an airplane out of duct tape; while it looks like a plane for the most part, it feels like it wasn’t necessarily intended to be used for making aircraft. But, hey, the thing seems to fly OK for now, and there’s a satisfying elegance underneath it all that’s really growing on me. That underlying elegance is that the results I’m looking at are actual people – not some composite projection of personas based on a survey fielded months ago, but an accurate recent snapshot that I can potentially trend over time.

More importantly, I can shift with audiences as their interests, tastes and attitudes expand and contract and as we develop the intelligence that tells us where the guardrails are – defining whether we move together on a narrow or broad path.

Be The Danger

Years ago, I put my teams on a mildly reckless path that we called “Planning Without Fear,” which was basically a loose doctrine of making sure our recommendations delivered something new and represented something we actually liked and had fun creating, convention and expectations be damned. We won awards, we wowed clients and we had a great time.

I feel like 2018 is going to be a year like that for media professionals everywhere. The data is there, the tools are in place, and the need has never been greater. So, let’s go.

Follow Caffelli (@caffelliagency) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Nice read and perspective. As a pub we love those who value context, a good social strategy and then some. Hopefully, safety and compliance are only parts of value--not the whole value and here's to clients who recognize and appreciate that.

    Years ago I once worked with a guy who could build a house of out duct tape, so don't discount that tape just yet!

    Reply

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