Case Study: How KSL Nabbed $250 Million in Billings in 10 Months

Media Shop Credits Its 'Unique' Targeting Model That Parses Transactions

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NEW YORK ( -- "That old adage 'Half my media is being wasted; I just don't know which half'? Now we know which half."

That's what Todd Sloane, senior VP at direct marketer Publishers Clearing House, had to say about a media plan developed by independent KSL Media, the media agency he hired recently after a long relationship with WPP Group's MindShare. At a time when marketers are under increasing pressure to justify every cent spent in their media mixes, there is perhaps no better compliment a marketer could pay an agency.
KSL CEO Hank Cohen
KSL CEO Hank Cohen

KSL, which handles $550 million to $600 million in media billings annually, has been on a new-business tear recently, reeling in about $250 million in new billings in 10 months. The agency credits what it views as a unique offering: a more-precise way for small- to mid-market clients to target consumers that uses transactional data the companies have at their fingertips.

"Clients have all this data sitting around them, but they don't know what to do with it," said Hank Cohen, KSL's CEO. "The really great part about this is [we're targeting] their customers."

Picking customers
The agency starts by examining customer data gathered by the marketer, looking at what customers are buying, how often they buy, how much they spend, where they live, etc. Using that transactional information, KSL can identify the best and worst customers and determine the differences between them.

The next step is identifying look-alikes by matching customer records to a database with consumer-segmentation capability (such as Personicx or Mosaic) that identifies clusters of U.S households based on demographics. KSL figures out which clusters a marketer's customers fall into and determines the best approach for the marketer. (For example, is the brand trying to retain customers in certain clusters with loyalty programs?)

Then the agency takes that cluster data and puts them directly into media-research tools (such as MRI) so the agency can identify media preferences. So KSL could, for example, map a marketer's cluster concentrations by local cable operating area or ZIP code to pinpoint local cable-buying strategies, newspaper distribution and out-of-home placement.

KSL's media mix reduced Publishers Clearing House's presence in network TV and highly rated syndicated programs and increased advertising in cable and syndicated programs that were more appropriate for the core customers the agency identified as the target. The campaign is set to launch in about a month.

With this process, "it's no longer a wide demographic of men 24 to 55 with XYZ income; it's 'I only want people 24 to 45 that fall into those clusters,'" said Michael Oddi, exec VP-integrated marketing for KSL. "We get a more precise, distinct target."

Stretching a buck
One of the most important benefits of KSL's approach to media planning is it can save marketers money. "We were initially intrigued by the idea [that we'd be] making dollars go further," Mr. Sloane said. "Marrying our data with their analysis resulted in a plan that we believe is a lot more cost-effective."

A campaign for Turtle Wax's Ice brand car wax, which launched about two years ago, kicked off with a long-form infomercial, both to generate awareness inexpensively and give KSL a chance to build a database. As Turtle Wax gathered information on 25,000 customers, KSL ran it through a segmentation study and began collecting data on who was buying the product, what kind of cars they owned and where they bought them.

One interesting fact emerged: Turtle Wax buyers didn't want to use the product if it was colder than 70 degrees outside. The agency then refined the media plan, buying short-form commercials on networks that were getting the best response from the infomercial and serving up ads on the Weather Channel with messages such as "It's going be 70 degrees out tomorrow; it's a great day to wax your car." The plan, which had a budget of less than $7 million, helped make Ice No. 1 in the auto-after-market product category at Wal-Mart, according to KSL.

"Advertising is to a certain extent the great unknown, and the more we can try and learn, the more effective it will be," said Erik Thompson, advertising director for California auto insurer Mercury Insurance Group, another recent client of KSL's. "I am not sure there is a magic bullet, but KSL has really gone several steps beyond what we've seen and allows us to be more focused and hopefully more efficient in what we do."
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