Media planning is the process by which advertisers create a plan to guide an ad campaign. In fact, every successful advertising campaign begins with a media plan.
Media planning is the process advertisers go through before buying and launching ads to gauge effectiveness and maximize return on investment (ROI). It is a critical first step in any ad campaign. The tangible outcome of the media planning process is a media plan document that will guide your ad campaign.
Media planning has several benefits, including:
- Staying more organized through your ad campaign
- Setting and tracking your campaign budget
- Better understanding your audience through the research conducted up front, which makes targeting and audience segmentation more effective
- Having a firmer grasp on what peers are doing
- Having a benchmark to compare future ad campaigns
There are four key elements of a media plan:
- Research and analysis: Your intended audience(s), market segment stakeholders, lessons learned from previous campaigns, and peers within your category
- Marketing objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs): Your main business objectives and key results and the analytics you will use to evaluate success, including everything from conversion rates to social media metrics to cost per click or result
- Media strategy: Your budget, ideal media and media to avoid (both paid and unpaid), key messages, CTA (call to action), specifications, deliverables, and timeline
- Implementation, evaluation, and measurement: When and how you’ll launch, monitor, and measure the ad campaign’s effectiveness
The media planning process follows this path:
- Conduct research and analysis. Hold meetings with stakeholders to discuss previous campaigns. Determine intended audiences and geographies.
- Define your objectives and KPIs. Determine and capture them in your media plan.
- Create your budget and budget tracking spreadsheet. Create your key messages and CTA, and define your timeline and deliverables with specifications. Capture all of this in your media plan. Reach out to media channels or work with media planners to do so. Map out what you are going to do and when you are going to do it.
- Launch and regularly monitor your ad campaign. Take note of what is and isn’t working, and adjust your strategy. Do A/B testing to gauge if different headlines or images will deliver better results. At the end of the ad campaign, measure final results in terms of how well they’ve met your KPIs.
Media buying is what happens after your media plan is complete—they work hand in hand. Media planning sets the parameters for the media buying. Media buying involves evaluating all media advertising options within your budget parameters in order to determine which audiences, ad types, and combination of media channels will help deliver the best possible campaign results, then purchasing those ads. Often, brands work with media planners to buy advertising media. Media buying focuses on paid media.
Paid media and unpaid media work together to support your business or product. Paid media includes things like digital advertising and traditional advertising (TV, radio, outdoor, etc.). Unpaid media includes things like organic posts on social media or blogs on your website, where you control the message but don’t have to pay to post. Both paid and unpaid media should be detailed in your media plan.