As much of everyday life remains in flux, effective media planning will require marketers to focus on three pillars: people, continuous planning and connected planning. That’s advice from Jay Nielsen, senior vice president of global planning products for Nielsen, who recently shared how brands can navigate the current and future state of disruption during the firm’s “Back to the Drawing Board: Media Planning Through Uncertainty” webinar.

People Should Be At The Center Of Planning

Now is a critical time for brands to understand how to reach the consumers they’re trying to connect with. To do so, Nielsen suggests commingling first-party data with second- and third-party data to understand what your target audience is engaging with. Making decisions based only on what you’ve previously done or what competitors are doing won’t cut it.

Audiences are interested in content that represents them, so as diversification grows,  on-screen representation should be at the core of a brand’s efforts to connect with people. Nielsen found that across the TV landscape of the top 300 most-viewed programs in 2019 (broadcast, cable and streaming), 92 percent of all programs measured showed some diversity (women, people of color, or LGBTQ+) in recurring casts.

Treat Planning As An Always-On Exercise

Continuous planning may provide the largest opportunity for brands. The 12-18 month planning cycle may not be effective going forward, so brands should look to plan throughout the year.

According to Nielsen, academic research shows that changes in brand share of voice are closely linked to changes in market share, marking a thorough understanding of how competitors are spending advertising dollars and how heavily they’re reaching your desired target.

To understand if increased competitive spend is being directed at their target or elsewhere, brands should measure their competitor’s reach and frequency to the brand’s own target in channels where it’s possible to track.

Combining in-flight optimization and post-campaign learning can also help maximize results. For one of Nielsen’s clients, a subscription-based global media and entertainment company, showing agility both in flight and on successive campaigns enabled it to lower its cost per acquisition (CPA). The client leveraged both attribution and marketing mix modeling (MMM) to maximize their results and optimized channel allocation with MMM. These efforts resulted in a decrease of 11 percent in CPA.

Additionally, the client utilized multi-touch attribution (MTA) to optimize the digital campaign in-flight, resulting in a decrease in CPA of about 7 percent to 13 percent. In total, the final investment resulted in a 20 percent decrease in CPA.

Thinking algorithms are faster than people, advertisers often take a set it and leave it approach when it comes to artificial intelligence or self-serve platform but Heather Cohen, Ayzenberg vice president of media, urges marketers to remember that while the new tools are great, they’re really just another form of calculation.

“We still find that humans are the most agile when it comes to actual campaign decision making. So while the algorithm may get you the lowest CPA, it doesn’t necessarily grant you the most qualified audience you’re trying to get traction against (e.g., you may be trying to improve your LTV, garner higher retention, increase your organic multiplier/halo effect or breakthrough to a new audience segment to improve sentiment/reputation/gain SOM). You still need a person to make that decision on what’s valuable after you weigh the pros and cons,” Cohen told AList.

Create A Holistic View Into Campaign Success

An opportunity for planning to evolve exists if brands can use uniform target definitions in multiple channels by ensuring their data, software and partners are in sync.

Brands should leverage historical data and use the same audience profiles across each of their software solutions. This systematic approach includes an understanding of the audience, their location, as well as building plans against that audience, quickly activating the plans, measuring against the plans and repeating this process.

Nevertheless, the sheer number of partners marketers work with makes a start-to-finish approach difficult to adopt. Nielsen’s 2021 Annual Marketing Report found that brands of all sizes and industries have very little confidence in their existing martech capabilities. Though the importance of data quality and consistency can’t be overstated, it remains a hurdle for marketers regardless of budget size.

The report also found that brands are planning to address this challenge by increasing both their marketing analytics projects and technology software budgets by an average of 30 percent over the next year.

Nielsen suggests brands leave behind antiquated planning schedules and conduct planning as an always-on exercise. With connected processes in place, marketers can have a more holistic, simplified view of processes, making reaching the right audience at the right time more attainable than ever.

“As consideration to purchase windows are decreasing, always-on is the reality in today’s non-linear purchase cycle,” said Cohen.