10 ways to improve integrated planning and execution

10 ways to improve integrated planning and execution

In an update on a 2020 piece, Ian Mc Grath looks at ways to improve integrated campaigns as we shift from an ‘either/or’ approach to ‘and’ thinking.

Over the last decade, media has become more difficult to plan and now requires more resources to execute.

The growing complexity that channel fragmentation has brought also coincided with a fall in creativity and marketing budgets being over-concentrated on short-term wins.

There was a well-documented drop in the effectiveness of creativity — see Peter Field’s “Creative effectiveness is in crisis” presentation from Cannes Lions 2019.

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Thankfully, this trend has started to correct itself over the last number of years since Field raised it. Digital advertising is delivering greater business impact and this impact is materialising over both the short term and the long term, with particular note to the growth of digital video in improving these figures.

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However, the complexity of developing consistently meaningfully different creative to reach people across a fragmenting channel mix persists, meaning that media needs to pick up some of this slack.

Time and time again, integrated, multimedia campaigns have been demonstrated to perform better.

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However, budget and time constraints mean that marketing teams prefer an “either/or” approach, instead of “and” thinking. Objectivity and integrated planning skills are in short supply.

Media has also become less understood in this time. Within both marketing departments and agencies, bias has overtaken hard evidence, as documented in Ebiquity’s Re-evaluating Media report.

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Media is one of the biggest investments a marketing team will make in any financial year. It is therefore critical to ensure the effective return from this investment and new thinking is needed for this to become more widespread across our industry.

Here are 10 ways to improve your integrated media planning and execution. Originally written in 2020, these principles have stood the test of time and are still relevant today.

1. Find the right KPIs

Know or learn what KPIs are lead indicators of brand health, sales and future growth.

And then build your integrated-media plan against these.

2. Do not restrict reach with overly complex segmentation

Generally, the broader the reach within a category, the more effective the media performance is over the longer term.

This is not to say that segmentation is not important. Brands can still target broad audiences while segmenting the messaging, optimising through the most relevant context, channel and timing.

The point is to build reach across all category buyers and use the most optimal channel mix to achieve this. It’s rare nowadays that marketers are limited to one channel, so segmentation can be applied to achieve this.

There is a balance. Every campaign needs some centre of gravity, but targeting with too narrow a range of customers and being overly selective in your segmentation will miss sales.

Note that demographics are traditionally used to target audiences but, in most cases, these are not the most effective means to build reach. They are preferred because they are easier to survey and have been traditionally used to trade.

Segmentation should be based against what goal the product/service is fulfilling, what problem is being solved, what’s the audience behaviour type — otherwise there is a higher potential to miss category buyers. And one of the great advantages of media fragmentation is that more of the audience you plan should be the audience you buy.

Lastly, reach is not exclusive to any one segment in most media, even when targeting is applied.

3. Drop the perception that each media type can only do one thing

Marketers must move away from the old-school thinking of “media fit”, especially as the consumption of channels continues to fragment. This only constrains the planning and measurement of channel performance.

Likewise, know that not all impressions, views and ratings are the same (sometimes not even human), even within the one channel.

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A good example of this is fragmentation across audiovisual channels (TV, broadcast VOD, streaming, YouTube, connected TV and cinema). Simply, look at the multidimensional reach and sequencing available from video as a channel mix and the layered opportunity that it creates across the funnel.

4. Understand that consumer journeys are not linear

Because this is sometimes wrongly interpreted by the marketing funnel. But do not over-complicate them when planning. Make communications clear and single-minded, and make purchase easy.

5. Co-ordinate plans between creative and media

So that you can align the campaign message, medium and moment, in order to maximise people’s connection with the campaign idea.

Research published last year from Amplified Intelligence and Lumen Research demonstrated the choice of channels, and the varying attention they generate, influences how well creative performs.

6. Cut the demarcation and the reporting between channels

Why email marketing, (sometimes) search, content marketing, PR, gaming, on-site customer experience etc are not part of the same plan as TV, digital video, OOH etc is beyond me. We’ve been talking about through-the-line and omnichannel campaigns for the last 20 years.

7. Balance channel best practices with new media opportunities and emerging trends

This includes brand-safety guidelines and investing time early to ensure marketing is within industry regulations and marketing codes.

8. The performance of channel metrics is only a means to an end

Integrated media planning and buying should be explained by the outcomes they deliver.

9. Close gaps and cut duplication

There is a lot of waste in media plans that measure and report stuff but put no action behind doing anything about them (viewability, fraud, poor attribution modelling, poor optimisation of messaging, AB tests). These have a cost and are only on plans for “optic purposes”.

10. Move measurement to be forward-facing

Econometrics and media audits are guilty of being slow to compile and heavily backward-facing. Econometrics has a high value to marketing plans, but the time lag it takes to bring these assessments together often means they lose some relevance by the time they are presented, as they miss key planning seasons and booking deadlines. This is simply not good, or fast, enough for today’s media landscape (or our changeable macro environment).

Traditional media audit processes, in particular, have dated in this respect and exacerbated further by the limited view of marketing effectiveness they can capture. Without the loss of quality or experience, both econometrics and audits need an upgrade to remain valuable to marketing departments. And a Bayesian approach to econometrics could replace media auditing, helping marketers by not having to handle separate datasets.

Ian Mc Grath is chief operations officer, media, at Dentsu Ireland

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