Questions ad teams should ask themselves about the media planner’s process

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


Greetings from London, UK.

In the newsletter, I want to delve deeper into the role of advertising agencies, specifically the agency media planners responsible for much of the revenue that comes into many media companies in the form of advertising revenue. 

We have talked much in past newsletters about how getting a better and deeper relationship with agencies and advertisers is key to a more fruitful and profitable outcome. We have talked about how understanding them is a “must do” for them to develop a trust with us. Demonstrating our knowledge of the advertising ecosystem helps that trust — not just about the services we offer but how they operate and how we can talk competently with them about what they do. 

In this newsletter, I want to highlight what those planners do to help us all relate to them better by recognising the role they play.

8 considerations of media planners

1. Base one: When advertisers and their planners create advertising campaigns, they must firstly carefully choose the merits and demerits of each type of ad media.

Media planners must consider each media platform's opportunities for reaching different audiences.
Media planners must consider each media platform's opportunities for reaching different audiences.

Each channel communicates ad messages to potential customers through different mediums — for instance: newspapers over television, radio, or maybe social media. 

The base one questions, before we go any further here, are:

Do we do enough to demonstrate that our media channels are better than the competition?

When compiling media campaigns and strategies, do we provide the tools and insights to arm them with the facts to help the judge in our favour re: the optimal advertising media? 

The term “advertising media” today can relate to a number of mass media or “alternative” media channels where ad clients can promote their brand, products, or services. As it is impossible for every consumer to know about every advertised offering, knowing which media channels are most beneficial for a client is vital in getting a march on competitors.

2. The role of advertising media: By using the right types of ad media, advertisers can engage with different audiences in very different ways. As an example, social media actively encourages consumers to begin a dialogue, while TV is more a one-way comms channel. 

Do we fully understand the nuances, perceptions, and angles on this sort of knowledge to exploit to our own advantage?

Indeed, do we have a range of ad products to cover all or most of the client requirements? 

Media planners must carefully work out which channels offer the optimal amount of brand benefits for the smallest relative cost. Every ad medium will therefore (in theory at least) be chosen on the aims and goals of the campaign — whether for brand awareness or maybe direct sales — and the chosen channels’ abilities to reach specific target audiences. 

Planners always need to think beyond the basics like TV and online banner ads in today’s rapidly changing ad environment. They usually are far from being enough, relevant, nor appropriate. Instead they must zone in on consumer attitudes towards the brand.

3. Brand experience: the beating heart: Without doubt, the brand experience should be at the heart of any evolving media plan, and any ad platform should support that zoning in.  

For example, a media plan for client X may include newspapers, but the ads should seek to strengthen the relationship with the consumer. Any chosen ad media, and its relevant channels, should back up the overarching brand strategy and its messaging so each form of media acts as a piece in a jigsaw puzzle that ultimately forms a total picture of the brand strategy. 

It’s important at this point to remind ourselves that consumers are exposed to six to 10,000 ads every day (source: see Further Reading section below), so media planners need to maximise their impact per exposure. This means having a specific team dedicated to optimising ad placement, negotiating budgets, and designing creative content that appeals to the target audience.

4. Overall ad strategy: Once evaluation of the respective media channels has been done, the question that parallels is: “What’s the strategy for this campaign?” 

Planners begin by building a framework for their overarching strategy. Are they looking to raise brand awareness or increase sales on, say, a major sales day? The ideal media channel for their campaign will depend on the ultimate goals. For example, to raise sales on, say, Black Friday, planners could build digital ad campaigns that encourage consumers to take specific actions right away.

However, campaigns that focus on brand awareness could take place over a wider timeframe and include a much more diverse mix of media for optimal results.

Do our sales teams fully understand this?

5. Budgetary limitations: Planners would normally share the campaign’s required budget and then allocate funds to the chosen channels. For example, they may find it a requirement to choose between a solo TV ad or a full-page newspaper ad  …compared with, say, multiple digital banner ads in an online campaign if budgets are tight. 

It’s obviously better to get a grip of the campaign’s monetary limits vs capabilities before determining the best possible channel(s).

So, what are we doing to get beneath the skin here and be there to assist in decision-making?

Are we constantly available and probing to achieve the best results for our own ends?

6. Message frequency: Frequency is a main determinant of how well an ad campaign performs. Advertisers need to repeat messages frequently across many channels to ensure consumers notice and for those messages to lodge in the consumer conscience.

Media ad teams must stay connected with media planners on issues like message frequency.
Media ad teams must stay connected with media planners on issues like message frequency.

It’s a stark reminder for us — and a media weakness highlighted by Borrell Associates last year when speaking with agencies directly — that some think we as media companies sell a campaign to them then abandon them. A “job done” kind of approach. No!

Do we have the post-sales follow-ups in place for any message frequency needs that can gain extra ad revenue for our company?

Is the relationship close enough with the planners to ensure they consider us?

7. Efficacy of past media buys: When determining a media planning budget, it’s useful for the agency to understand what purchases have worked well for the buying team previously.

Therefore, there is normally an effective advertising attribution model that allows a measure of offline and online data. In advertising, attribution is the identification of “a set of user actions that contribute to a desired outcome,” says Wikipedia. 

The most frequently used way for conducting this is called “unified marketing measurement,” i.e. that which brings together the most important components of ad analysis. 

This form of measurement accounts for online and offline customer touchpoints and uses fairly advanced attribution to decide how significant each touchpoint was to their ultimate conversion. In other words, it relates to business models that weigh differing aspects of the campaign to determine which advertisements were most effective. All down to the power of today’s ad tech.

8. An integrated advertising media mix: Modern advertisers have access to a large assortment of channels that can send out ad messages in quite distinct ways. This often makes it hard to settle on a single or few channel(s), and therefore both planners and advertisers very often create a multi-faceted, multi-functional mix of media. 

As advertisers “play” with/amend this mix (some channels “on the fly”), they can enjoy the biggest strengths and, therefore, benefits of each type of ad media while allowing for any limitations as they watch them perform in real time. 

Maintaining the ideal mix of ad media isn’t easy. Creating great, multi-channel media plans also requires creative expertise, strategic know-how, and an enormous amount of energy. 

Is this something we can infiltrate on?

Can we assist them with our own knowledge of what works best?

The advertisers must constantly optimise their campaigns or face the risk of damaging ROI through what would, in short, be wasted ad spend. 

Fortunately, an array of advanced ad technology these days has made optimising a media mix much more achievable. We just need to fully understand them. By using the right tools and right expertise, advertisers can now create a successful multi-channel media plan. 

We need to have a seat at the table in helping planners decide on all the above. A seat in their consciousness. A seat where you can provide knowledgeable advice and the ability to understand the procedures and thought processes they go through to determine the best outcomes for their clients.

Do you have a seat with your agencies? If not, why not? 

Further reading

3-part focus of the INMA Advertising Initiative this year

I also want to take the opportunity today to highlight the role this initiative will play this year for this association. There are definite opportunities for you to be involved. 

The INMA International Board of Directors at the end of 2022 approved the following three main objectives for the Advertising Initiative: 

1. First-party data for advertising: from architecture to sales 

  • Media companies may be collecting data, but how is this put into action for growing advertising sales?  
  • Building strategy, elements of, extracting, manipulating, exploiting data, insights, consequential premium/consultative selling — what are advertisers wanting from us?
  • Improving metrics and UX.

2. Advertising automation

  • What best practice case studies are out there?
  • How to handle any shift internally?
  • What are the benefits internally and externally?

3. Increasing advertising revenue diversification

  • What is the right mix of revenue areas?
  • What does a modern media company focus on for future revenue?
  • Where should we place our bets (e-commerce, video, audio, branded content)?

If you have any case studies, insights, opinions, etc., that you would like to share on any of the above, do let me know.

How can you get directly involved? 

Yes, you can watch/read any of these, but would you be interested in being featured in them? Reach out to me at Love to hear from you and discuss ways you can immerse yourself with your global community.

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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