Making Media Sales Smart

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Marketers are digging deeper into media territory thanks to a new planning tool that promises to make ad buys more targeted, informed, and sales sensitive. The software, created through the marriage of Sandy, Utah-based MediaPlan Inc. and Spectra Marketing in Chicago, incorporates the consumption and viewing preferences of demographic groups with media costs and syndicated scanner tracking data, which predicts seasonality and regionality of purchasing trends. As a result, marketers can gauge network buying proposals by the effectiveness with which they reach and generate sales for particular brands. The software can, for example, be used to correlate the relationship between media dollars spent and sales volume reached.

The MediaPlan/Spectra tool is an enhanced version of MediaPlan's media-planning software, BRANDfx, which is already used by many ad agencies throughout the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. Currently, the new tool is being tested by McCann Erickson, which has invested in the software in return for first-time exclusivity. Although the agency and a spokesman for MediaPlan/Spectra declined to discuss details, industry speculation is that McCann is testing the product on media buys for all of client NestlA's brands.

MediaPlan/Spectra, which parent company VNU Marketing Information Systems put under one roof in May, is in talks with various marketers and agencies about other possible deals.

"We're trying to create a measure that allows us to evaluate how much sales volume is represented by the audience that's watching," says MediaPlan/Spectra's Gary Schroeder. He says his company can now quantify for media buyers the best TV programming and the best time of the year to reach target consumers who have proven loyalty or interest in a brand.

Skeptical media researchers contend that applications of the new tool are limited because scanner data is only collected from packaged goods. But Schroeder says that since other industries have perfected their data collection, it is now possible to build custom models for non-packaged goods marketers. Car purchasing behavior from Polk, he says, could be built into a MediaPlan/Spectra model for a car client.

Early response so far has been enthusiastic. "They're on the right track," says Robert Frank, president of SFM Media Corporation, a major media agency that has expressed interest in the product. "It's particularly important to us in today's market, where price increases and lower ratings are forcing us to recognize that we need to target better."

And nobody seems more enthused than the folks at McCann: George Dallas, a senior vice president and co-director of media research at the agency, calls the new tool "revolutionary." "We've never had the opportunity to bring sales into the media equation," Dallas says. "Over time, the whole concept of CPM will go away. The point is to go after the best customers, not the most."

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