COMMENTARY: Knowing which media your message demands

Channel Planning is the process of finding the most appropriate media channels in which your brand can engage consumers. It used to be called Media Planning, but the explosion of choice available to marketers seems to have necessitated a name change.
Chris Harrison
Chris Harrison

Channel Planning is the process of finding the most appropriate media channels in which your brand can engage consumers. It used to be called Media Planning, but the explosion of choice available to marketers seems to have necessitated a name change.

I always find it strange that marketers, whose job is to make offerings simple and appealing to the public, take a perverted delight in jargon. The more arcane the better, it sometimes seems!

The Channel Planner is a person who lives in an advertising agency environment, and prepares recommendations for brand owners.

She should recommend the best combination of media to achieve the given marketing campaign objectives.

This information then shapes the creative process, as it determines the advertising materials to be produced – radio spot, online banner, event poster and so in.

A good Channel Planner needs to answer a number of questions; who am I trying to reach with my message?  Known from that point as the target audience. How many of the target audience can I reach through media? Where do I prioritise the investment?

Can I afford to target more than one audience? Clients sometimes ask for multiple audience delivery, without the budget to do reach one audience properly.

How frequently does my message need to appear? Some messages can be drip-fed over time, but a launch or promotion will demand high frequency repetition of message.

For Channel Planners in Kenya, we have regular industry research to measure media audiences. So the Channel Planner’s job has a statistical element, a rational analysis before more subjective criteria are overlaid. We know, for example, how many people listen to Capital Radio at 07h15.

We also know from what levels of society they are drawn.

Many other markets on the Continent are developing similar industry research, and the process is to be lauded and supported.

 Ghana is one of the leaders in understanding media consumption on the West Coast, thanks to effort and investment by media agency OMD.

The shocking reality is that without objective research measurement, media purchase is conducted on an informal and subjective basis.

 Which media rep the client or agent likes; which magazine’s the client’s wife reads; which outdoor supplier will offer the sweetest inducement.

In a professional media agency, a Channel Planner starts with a blank piece of paper and builds her plan in rational way.

That then becomes part of the creative briefing discussion, and later part of a combined media and creative presentation to the client. In that meeting the merits of both channel and message are debated and agreed. Here the interest of the client brand is paramount.

In less professional media agencies there is a tendency to buy quantities of media space and airtime in advance at a discount. Then sell them on to clients at a premium.

This is neither in the interest of the client, nor indeed of the development of media channels. It commoditises the whole process, and as a community we should resist this practice as strongly as possible.

There is no vocational training for media planning. Candidates need to be numerate and analytical, but also…creative. As media planners grow, negotiation skills become more important. If you are a good negotiator, you may eventually specialize in media trading – the purchase of planned media. It can be a stimulating career.

Chris Harrison is Chairman Young & Rubicam Group Africa

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