Commentary by Jonah Bloom

Media Planning Is Getting Short Changed

While Creative is Killed by Interference and Too Much Debate, Media Planning Gets Too Little Attention

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Technology is reshaping the media world at breakneck pace, yet many marketers continue a counterproductive obsession with the message-killing creative by overthinking, overresearching and involving too many people while neglecting and underfunding media planning.
Jonah Bloom, executive editor of Advertising Age.

Internet's ad revenue boom
The Internet could finish the year as the second biggest medium in terms of ad revenue. If it weren't for TV's stranglehold on ad dollars, perhaps it would be closing in on No. 1. Just under 200 million people visit either Yahoo or MSN every month: These are mass audiences that can be served targeted, customized, interactive content -- a compelling story for most marketers.

It is also worth noting that 100 million Americans will pick up a call today on Cingular or Verizon phones. In fact, they pick up an average of six calls. By some media metrics that's a potential 600 million impressions per day. The time when most of those phones will be able to handle video content is not far away.

Then there is the increasingly sophisticated and consolidated retail environment, a vital medium in itself. More than 140 million Americans will pass through a Wal-Mart forecourt this week, and 33 million people globally will stop by Starbucks. (That's the same Starbucks that won eight Grammys last week for the best-selling Ray Charles Genius Loves Company CD.)

Targeting through TV
TV, meanwhile, still delivers 90 million come Super Bowl time, and 20 million every week for its biggest shows. But, just as significantly, it has the potential to drive interested people to a video-on-demand location where they act on their interest. If the futurists know their future, technologies such as TiVo, Navic or Invidi will one day deliver dog food ads only to people who have dogs.

This is not said to rate one medium against another, because clearly they must be used in concert, but to illustrate the shifting nature and complexity of the media environment.

The shifting nature and complexity of the media environment is what makes media agencies and media planning so vital.
In such a world, marketers need all the help they can get.

Media planning is vital
That's what makes the media agencies and media planning so vital. Yet media accounts continue to be parsed out at parsimonious margins, and media agencies keep taking them -- presumably due to desperation and the public company focus on the next quarter. Numerous sources suggest that at least three major media accounts have recently been awarded at fees less than 2% above the cost of the media the agency will be purchasing.

The marketers in these cases will get what they deserve -- someone who will promise thorough process and unique insight, but will end up lumping their dollars in with everyone else before making a number of bulk buys in a small selection of traditional media outlets, later post-justifying the rationale behind the buys. Marketers won't get the consumer research or properly tailored, media-neutral planning that they desperately need.

As important as creatives
Getting to know and learning to use the broad range of media channels available today requires smart planners, and enough of them that they can fully research each marketer, audience and medium. The best planners should be respected and paid like the best creatives, because they are as vital to the future of marketing. Marketers who can't see the need for a properly funded media-planning function are sailing blind into uncharted waters. There will be wrecks.

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