Premjeet Sodhi’s Nascent Media: Stop over-simplification of media

04 Oct,2011

While, the core thought of this article about ‘over-simplification’ may apply to the overall domain of marketing, but I am using the setting of media planning to construct the view.
Lets, first see what is the task or challenge that the media agencies take up in their business.Every advertiser expects the media planning agency to deliver performance for its business metrics. That is to say that – once a media plan is executed the brand manager expects sales to happen.

Enough has been said about the increasing complexity of the market, the increasingly unpredictable and demanding consumer and the decreasing strength of brands. In such a scenario, the factors that lead to sales success are many. The classical models of marketing have now been replaced by far more dynamic models and media is only one of the many factors that influence sales. Hence, this is not a simple or easy expectation at all.
Even a little bit of analytics will reveal that media has only got limited leverage to drive sales and this leverage varies for different categories and brands. However, there are other interim metrics leading to sales, such as brand recall, brand perception, brand enquiry, brand interactions, etc for which media can be held accountable for. There are so many marketing models and methods that help understand what a brand needs to deliver in media. None of these methods are simple.Looking at ‘media’ in isolation and expecting it to deliver sales is a naive simplification. 

Media Planning is an intricate science. It deals with engaging extremely incredulous and volatile consumers to convince them of the merits of one of the score of brands that are available to them and possibly get them to move closer to buying the brand. In short, it deals with the wants and desires of people which can never be a simple subject to address.

However, somewhere along the way in the past agencies have made advertises believe that this complex task can be broken up into two simple steps – (i) design the message and (ii) deliver the message to the desired consumer segment.

Here, I will not comment on designing the message since I have already touched upon that in my earlier post titled “Creative is killing Creativity“. Lets look at the inherent simplification that has been cultivated in delivering the message.

The first simplification was to strip each medium of its “qualitative” values and believe that each vehicle in a medium and across mediums can be represented by the measure of only “quantity”. 

This made it very easy to measure media and trade media. One was only bothered about the count or reach as we call it. Research agencies made a killing setting up mammoth research projects measuring this lowest common denominator across media. Yes, there was a qualitative aspect but that was left to interpretation and application by the media planners. Now, we have the media planing community largely addicted and servile to these quantitative research databases totally oblivious to the qualitative value of the media they recommend.

The second simplification was to believe that consumer minds can be affected just by managing the volume of this media measure. 

The GRP was conceived – which is another simplification of the arithmetic that goes into making a media schedule and this GRP became the volume measure of  voice of the brand. Due to its simplicity, clients took to GRPs easily and it soon became a strong trading currency for media. Today, everything that is done is to create, deliver, manage, buy, sell – this GRP. This GRP comes in various reach and frequency packs and is available across media. This GRP has become the magic wand with which the client and the agency attempt to deliver market shares.

The simplification is also evident in the remuneration structure that is prevalent in the industry. Everything that is done in communication is measured in terms of the traded value of media bought and the agencies are paid as a percentage of that. Since, actually estimating the real value contributed by media is difficult – so a percentage of spends keeps it simple.

I guess, the whole media eco-system looks at the issues too simplistically and that is why “value-creation” is reducing day by day and leading to commoditization of media, media schedules, media talent and of media agencies. The advertisers will continue to simplify, but if, the media and advertising domain wants to enhance its value they will have to do away with this over-simplification. After all, Value is in the details.

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