Media planning in the agency

The workflow or the various stages through which a media plan evolves within an agency differs from agency to agency and also within the agency’s account to account. The variations depend on the size of the problem and the agency’s organization and its relation with its clients. The development of almost all plans must follow a similar pattern, although the stages may be telescoped and considerations made implicit rather than being discussed at meetings.

The initial planning meeting is usually a large one and will see the involvement of senior people working on the account, and possibly the agency management. The account director, his team and creative and media planning people also take part in that meeting. In some cases, the client team may also be present. The purpose of this meeting is to formally evaluate the current progress of the brand and its market, and the plan for the period under review, usually the following financial year. The end product of the meeting should be a draft marketing strategy, which outlines the way the agency feels the brand’s target can best be achieved.

This first draft will then be thrashed out with the client, the agency being represented possibly by the management and certainly by the account team. When approved, the marketing objectives form the basis for both creative and media work.

Media owners, mind your language

Language is the most important means of communication for human beings. It has been, it is, it will be. Besides verbal languages, we have non-verbal languages such as sign language, body language and so on. Without a language, no communication is possible.

When a pharmaceutical company hires a medical representative, it makes sure that the person being hired is conversant with the doctor’s language; because a doctor cannot be convinced by a person who does not speak his language. When an engineering company hires a salesman to sell its equipment, it makes sure that the candidate selected is well-versed in the engineering industry.

How do media houses hire people to sell their advertising space or time? There are two types. One is the owner who does not want to invest in fresh people. Instead, that person looks around and finds a person who has already proved himself in the field. That recruiter is the one who believes in fresh talent (which is really a good thing considering the number of unemployed graduates around).

Unfortunately, the good intentions of the latter don’t go much further because such media owners haven’t recognised the need for professionalism.
They hire fresh graduates and push them into the field with one-line brief: ‘Go and get some ads’. These poor freshers who have had no exposure to marketing and advertising move amongst advertising professionals without any direction. Worse, they don’t even know the language of the advertising agency, media planners or the product managers at the advertises’ office.

They have been told that their job is to get some ads. So, they visit advertising agencies and advertisers and start asking, quite literally, ‘give me some ads’.

Some of the other demands which one often hears from media sellers are:

How about an ad? (just like that).

Give me an ad. My job is at stake (it happens about once a week).

You handle so many products; you must give something to us too.

I saw your ad in X. Why was it not released in our publication or channel? (occurs about once a day )

What should a media owner do to avoid getting himself the image of a “scrounger”?

First, recruit people with a marketing and advertising background. In the case of fresh graduates, please provide them with adequate training in marketing and advertising. It will eliminate to a large extent the re-occurrence of the scenario mentioned earlier. When a media seller makes a fool of himself, it reflects more on the media owner than on the person himself through sheer ignorance.

Media owners must familiarise their representative with the media planning process in an advertising agency; so, when his representative visits an ad agency, he can speak the media planners’ language.

A good media seller, in my opinion, is familiar with inter-media comparisons. He is the one who understands the target audience for his client’s products, understands the nature and seasonal patterns of various products. And above all, he is thoroughly familiar with the singular characteristics of the medium he represents.

Unless media owners understand the need for talking to advertising professionals in their language, they will continue to be in a difficult situation, as most are today.

विज्ञापन क्या है

विज्ञापन एक प्रकार का अनलिखा अनुबंध होता है — उत्पादक और उपभोक्ता के बीच । जहां उत्पादक यह वादा करता है कि वो अपने उत्पादन की क्वालिटी बढ़िया बनाए रखेगा और उसके उत्पादन में किसी प्रकार का दोष होने पर उपभोक्ता उसे, उसके पते पर धर सकता है। वहीं उपभोक्ता का कहना होता है कि चलिए हम आपके दावे पर भरोसा किए लेते हैं और आपका उत्पाद ख़रीद कर देखते हैं।

यही कारण है कि आम तौर पर उपभोक्ताओं में विज्ञापित उत्पादनों के प्रति अधिक विश्वास दिखाई देता है। आप खुद कभी ना कभी ऐसे अनुभव से ज़रूर गुज़रे होंगे। मान लीजिए आप टेलिविज़न सेट ख़रीदने जाते हैं। आपको चंद नाम याद आते हैं — सैमसंग, एल जी, सोनी, आदि, लेकिन दुकानदार आपको एक ऐसा सेट दिखाता है, जिसका आपने कभी नाम भी नहीं सुना है। माना उसके दाम आपको याद आने वाले नामों की तुलना में काफ़ी कम हैं, लेकिन आप हिचकिचाते हैं और अंत में निर्णय करते हैं — “नहीं भैया, भले कुछ अधिक दाम देने पड़ें, हम लेंगे वही सेट, जिसे हम जानते हैं”।

एक और मिसाल ले लीजिए, आप अपने लिए जींस ख़रीदना चाहते हैं और आपको एक ऐसी जींस नज़र आती है, जिसका नाम ना तो लीवाएज़ है और ना ही रैंगलर, ना ही डीज़ल है। बल्कि उस का नाम है “टिनपॉट”। हो सकता है उसकी क़ीमत कम हो, यहाँ भी आप झिझकेंगे। उसे नहीं ख़रीदेंगे।

विज्ञापन व्यवसाय में इन अनुबंधनों के मसौदे तैयार करने वाले कापीरायटर कहलाते हैं। यह वे लोग होते हैं जो उत्पादनों में छुपे गुणों को खोज निकालते हैं । इन्हें मसौदा तैयार करने से पहले कई बातों का ध्यान रखना होता है। सबसे पहले वे उन गुणों की खोज करते हैं जो केवल उनके उत्पादन में हों। जैसे लिरिल साबुन में नींबू की सनसनाती ताज़गी का एहसास। जब लिरिल का विज्ञापन अभियान शुरू हुआ था, तब लिरिल नींबू की ताज़गी वाला इकलौता साबुन था। अगर ऐसी स्थिति पैदा हो जाए, जहां अपनेउत्पादन और प्रतिस्पर्धी उत्पादनों में कोई फ़र्क़ ना हो, वहाँ ऐसा गुण खोजने की चेष्टा की जाती है, जो प्रतिस्पर्धी उत्पादन में भी शामिल हो, लेकिन प्रतिस्पर्धी ने उसका दावा अपने विज्ञापन में कभी ना किया हो।

इसका सबसे अच्छा उदारहण लिम्का है । जब हम लिम्का पर काम कर रहे थे, तब यही सोच रहे थे कि लिम्का के बारे में क्या कहा जाए जो दूसरे सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक्स से अलग हो । सारे प्रतिस्पर्धी उत्पादों का अधय्यन करते हुए, हमने पाया कि जब पानी में कार्बन डाईआक्सायड मिलाई जाती है तब कोई बैकटेरिया जीवित नहीं रहता । पानी, पीने के लिए पूर्ण रूप से सुरक्षित हो जाता है । उसी अधय्यन में हमने ये भी पाया कि कोई सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक उत्पाद ये दावा नहीं करता है । हमने, लिम्का के लिए “ज़ीरो बैकटेरिया सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक” का दावा इस्तेमाल करना शुरू किया। ये दावा इतना कामयाब हुआ कि सन 1988 में, भारत अकेला वो देश बना जहां, कोला ड्रिंक की जगह, नींबू स्वाद वाल सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक, नंबर एक सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक था ।

अर्थात्, लिम्का के उस दावे को स्वीकार करते हुए, उपभोक्ताओं ने लिम्का को अपनाया। लिम्का, आज भी लोकप्रिय सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक है, हालाँकि कोका-कोला ने इसे समाप्त करने के लिए अपना ज़ोर लगा कर देख लिया है । वैसे वो एक और लोकप्रिय सॉफ़्ट ड्रिंक, गोल्ड स्पॉट, को मौत के घाट उतारने में सफल हो चुके हैं।

ये अनुबंध टूटते भी जल्दी हैं । इनके टूटने के कई कारण होते हैं। सबसे पहला कारण होता है, अनुबंध में किए गए वादे पर पूरा ना उतरना। अक्सर लोग विज्ञापन बनाते समय यथार्थ की सीमाएँ फलांग जाते हैं और ऐसे दावे कर बैठते हैं, जिनका कसौटी पर खरा उतरना सम्भव नहीं होता है।

मुझे बड़ा आश्चर्य तब होता है जब राजनीतिक पार्टियाँ अपने अनुबंधों में किए गए वादों से बार-बार पलट जाती हैं लेकिन जनता का मोह फिर भी उनसे भंग नहीं होता है। कोई अगर राजनीतिक दलों का यह जादुई फ़ार्मूला हमें बता दे तो हम उस फ़ार्मूले को अन्य उत्पादों पर लागू कर हर विज्ञापन अभियान को सफल बना सकेंगे। 

Hitting the super six in media planning

The business of advertising is all about (a) What to say (b) How to say and (c) Most ignored, yet most importantly WHERE to say. While the what to say (strategic planning) has its share of brainstorming and nit picking and how to say (creative execution) its grand platform of glory, the where to say is often relegated to a mundane activity of droning off figures and figures at the end of presentations. All because, sadly no one ever thinks it is important to involve the media person at the strategic planning stage or the creative planning stage while working on a campaign. Often there is just a cursory representation of media in these meetings, in the form of a silent spectator who, if and when decides to speak up, will do so in terms of banal statistics and numbers and jargon that often puts the ‘creative’ heads to sleep.

The Media-Creative marriage

Advertising is communication. Effective communication is a lot about presentation of the message. One of the media planner’s most important jobs is to choose the best vehicle for the exposure of this message. Entire budgets may end up going down the drain if the valuable crores of rupees are not allocated appropriately to reach out the message to the potential consumer.

What one needs to make a brilliant campaign is to establish close communication between the media planner and the copy group right from the early stages of plans development. This will help in one, the copy group understanding the exposure opportunities and limitations early on in the planning stage and two, in the media planner understanding the intended creative approach to guide in the selection of media.

Today’s media scene

The dynamic nature of today’s media could be because of the umpteen number of entertainment and infotainment options that are today available to the consumers. Gone are the days of one doordarshan,, few leading publications, and even fewer options of entertainment and outings. The arrival of the various satellite channels and publications and the ever growing breed of more of such makes a planners job quite tricky and skilful. Paradoxically, today’s media fact is that though T.V. viewing has shot up (in terms of no. of hours), reading habits have not gone down. The high audience fragmentation; the ‘freebies’ survival tactics offered by many channels and publications who are giving ‘free’ spots and space to win more advertising revenue from clients etc. are only some of the snakes in the otherwise Eden of the media planners life.

No wonder, given this scenario, agencies often fall into the trap of getting caught in the ‘presented facts’ rather than delving deep within to look at and evaluate the core. For most agencies, making deals and bargains is the order of the day and the measure of their ‘media’ success. It would indeed be a rare pleasure if one came across the concept of reach and frequency from a young, maverick, planner today. The cost-benefit ratio has gone for a toss, often ending up in the agencies spreading themselves thin. It’s easier for today’s media person to be a part of a herd mentality (‘I must be on T.V. because everyone else is on T.V.) than to turn the clock in their favour with great plans and ideas.

Large Indian advertisers have gone one step ahead. They have started negotiating with most channels and publications themselves with the result huge amounts are being spent but these are hardly getting media visibility. There has been a steep rise in non-productive advertising expenses with media buying altering priorities to get better deals, rather than fine tuning planning, as is the conventional method.

The Science of Media Planning

So, what is scientific media planning? What could bring back a ‘planner to life’? What would resurrect the art of media planning in the face of stiff competition from media negotiating? A simple 6-Step process could help the young turks of advertising media give more brain meat to their media plans. This 6-Step process could help in making the intended campaign reach more incisively, drawing blood from deep or more sportingly you will hit a six with this super six step process.

Step 1: The situation analysis

As is the accepted ‘given’ in most agencies, a media person works on a ‘brief’ that he is given by the client servicing person, or if lucky, straight from the client, by being a part of the client meeting. A smart planner would exercise his grey cells further and clearly understand the marketing problem, delve into the company and its competitors, understand the dynamics of size and share of market, study the sales history, distribution practices (yes, it helps to know how the brand you are working on reaches its end user), method of selling, before finally coming to the identification of the prospect. Too much is never really too much, when it comes to gathering brand information, as the more we know the more innovative we can get in generating cut-throat media plans.

Step 2: Getting to the market strategy

Advertising is the means to achieve marketing objectives. Most of the ad people forget this and look at advertising as a creative field for fulfilment of creative urges. Very few of us realise the responsibility that rests on our shoulders in this profession. Good media planners however, do realise the value of the millions of rupees entrusted to them by their clients and judiciously spend each rupee to get the maximum mileage off it. Your media plan, as a good planner, must stick to this essence and revolve around activities that solve one or more marketing problem/s. To do this you must put the marketing objective in focus before you arrive at any media decisions. Based on these objectives you need to arrive at a ‘Spending Strategy’ which you would apply after the identification of the best market segment.

Step 3: Setting media objectives

Now that you have your spend strategy in line with the marketing objectives, the next big step is to translate these marketing objectives and spend strategies into goals that media can accomplish. To do this it is important to state the media objective in as clear a term as possible. For example if we are trying to sell a premium perfume that costs around Rs. 3,500/- for a 100 ml bottle, the media objective could probably be “To reach 80% women in the age group 25-44, in SEC A+ and A, living in major metro towns (specify the towns), ensuring that they are exposed to the message at least 4 times a week (average frequency). Compare this to a vague objective like “To reach all women in SEC A & A+”, wherein you could lose your focus as it does not offer you any direction to strategize.

Step 4: Determining the media strategy

Having got the objectives set now comes the time to translate media goals into general guidelines that will control the planners selection and use of media. Analyse all possible data available and arrive at the best possible media class that can deliver your message to the maximum of the audience set as the target in our objective. Should this media class be Television, Dailies, Radio, Internet, Outdoor, Magazines or do we need to innovate (innovation always helps if it is well thought out and relevant). If any particular medium is unable to reach out to all 80%, then we look at alternative media classes that will fill in the gap. Simply put, this means you need to choose broad media classes and determine the primary medium of message delivery and the secondary medium for message delivery to achieve the marketing objectives. Work out various strategies that can achieve our objectives, with the central point being simple audience delivery! Having done this, zoom in and select the best strategy alternative that will lead you to your next step.

Step 5: Selection of media vehicles

Having carefully picked and chosen the broad media classes, now you need to freeze on the exact vehicles that will deliver to the media objectives. It is best to know what you expect each of medium and the chosen vehicles to deliver. Herein you will address issues like who is each of these addressing from the targeted audience, what is the intended goal behind using this particular vehicle, etc.

After arriving at a probable shortlist, compare and select the best media within the broad classes- If magazine-which one? If television – which channel/s? If newspaper-which one? If radio- which channel/s? Analyse these options and allocate approximate spends to each of these.

Step 6: Media use decisions

Having chosen the channels/ newspapers/ radio channels/ websites etc., now answer crucial questions like what is the level of reach and frequency you think is needed to reach out to the target audience? Are there any specific days/months more important to help in achieving the marketing objectives? What is the optimum number of insertions/ spots required per week /month to fulfill the average frequency set in the media objective? Will having any preferred positions/ placements within the media help deliver a message better? The more specific our questions and answers are the more bang-on our plan will be!

These Super Sixes leave hardly any chance of erroneous planning you can encounter. The more you use these steps to plan, the more astute and precise you will get at the job of planning. With time you will realize that getting the best deal in media is not always about the best price at which you have bought media but is about how best you have got your target audience bought into your media selection so they buy enough of the brand you have been made a custodian of. So happy planning!

Jameel Gulrays