What is media planning? A complete guide

March 25, 2021 | By: Julia Bowers, Sr. Product manager

Every successful advertising campaign begins with a media plan. The following is a complete guide to advertising media planning, including overviews of what media planning and media buying are, how to create a media plan—with a media plan template, and information about what media planning and buying look like with Amazon Advertising, including a case study with a home care brand.

What is media planning?

Media planning is the process advertisers go through before buying and launching ads to gauge effectiveness and maximize ROI (return on investment). 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.

What are the benefits of media planning?

Media planning has several benefits, including:

  • You’ll start and stay more organized through your ad campaign.
  • You’ll be able to set and track to your campaign budget.
  • The research you conduct up front will allow you to better understand your audience, which makes targeting more effective.
  • You’ll have a firmer grasp on what peers are doing.
  • You’ll have a benchmark against which to compare future ad campaigns.

How do I build a media plan? What is the media planning process?

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 KPIs (key performance indicators): Your main business objectives 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:

  1. Conduct research and analysis. Hold meetings with stakeholders to discuss previous campaigns. Determine intended audiences and geographies.
  2. Define your objectives and KPIs and capture them in your media plan.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 met your KPIs.

How is media planning different from media buying?

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.

What is paid versus unpaid 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.

On Amazon Advertising, paid media includes solutions like Sponsored Display and video ads, whereas unpaid media includes Stores and Posts—tactics that support brand efforts but are free to advertisers.

Media planning template

For step-by-step instructions on how to create your media plan, here is a media plan template.

Amazon Advertising media plan template

Company: Company name
Campaign: Title

RESEARCH/ANALYSIS

Audiences

Include demographics for your intended audience, as well as interests, lifestyle, and other pertinent details.

Geography

Detail the geographical boundaries of your campaign.

Stakeholders

List all decision-makers and their roles.

Background/situation

Include notable business and industry information relevant to this campaign.

Previous results

Highlight top three wins of previous/similar campaigns.

Lessons learned

Highlight three things that could have been improved.

Peers

List peer companies and products.

MARKETING OBJECTIVES AND KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

Marketing objectives

List the main objectives of this campaign

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Creating an analytical way to evaluate success, these could include numbers of clicks or leads, conversion rates, dollar or percentage growth, or other metrics

MEDIA STRATEGY

Budget

Include paid media costs as well as strategy, content, and design, and implementation costs.

Media

Highlight your preferred media tactics in order of priority.

Media tactics to avoid

Note any tactics that haven’t worked in the past.

Key messages

Outline the top points in the order that you want to communicate them with this campaign—each with three supporting points.

CTA (call to action)

State what you’d like customers to do as a result of seeing your campaign.

Visual specifications

Note what you’d like to see in the visuals for your campaign, and what you’d like to avoid.

Deliverables

List which assets need to be created for this campaign, along with specs.

Timeline

Detail the planning, launch, and measurement phases of your campaign. Take into consideration that some media, like certain traditional advertising, should be purchased months before it runs.

IMPLEMENTATION AND MEASUREMENT

Launch

Set the date to launch campaign

Measurement

Note when and how you will track results.

Campaign end

Set the date the campaign will end and final results will be tallied together with insights and recommendations for future ad campaigns.

Media planning with Amazon Advertising

Amazon Advertising has a variety of resources to help you with media planning. Insights help you learn more about your audiences. Our tools help you get the most from those insights with the end goal of helping you know where to invest your marketing dollars. Following is more about how one advertiser used Amazon Advertising insights and tools to create and implement an effective media plan.

Customer success story: Home care brand’s annual planning

Using insights to inform the home care brand’s media strategy

There were three key insights that helped shape one home care brand’s media plan for 2020.

1. Brand awareness

Branded searches helped the home care brand understand if customers were aware of their brand and had affinity for the brand when shopping certain categories.

To understand this, it’s helpful to recap the difference between branded and non-branded searches. Non-branded searches refer to shopping queries that do not contain a company’s name or reflect brand familiarity. Branded searches refer to shopping queries that do contain a company’s name and reflect brand familiarity. Branded searches are used to highlight customers’ overall awareness for the brand when looking for particular items, such as home fragrance.

Insights showed that in 2019, the home care brand did an excellent job of driving brand awareness. From 2018 to 2019, the brand’s search index rose by 38%—that’s 38% more customers typing in the brand’s name into the discovery bar on Amazon. What helped lead to this was a 2019 investment in upper-funnel tactics aimed at brand awareness, such as OTT (over-the-top video) and ads on the Fire tablet: More customers discovered the brand, helping to drive more branded search queries.

Branded searches say a lot about shoppers’ intention if they come to Amazon looking for a particular brand versus shopping for a generic term. In fact, of total clicks on the home care brand’s sponsored ads, 97% were from shoppers using the brand’s branded shopping queries; that means only 3% of the brand’s sponsored ads were clicked by those using generic shopping queries, like "home fragrance" or "toilet sprays." This tells us that when customers use branded terms when shopping for the brand, they are more likely to click on the brand’s products. Clicks can lead to views of products, which helps set up remarketing efforts and ultimately drive purchases.

This meant that the brand needed to focus its media strategy on awareness-building tactics.

2. Purchase frequency

It’s important for any brand to discover where they stand against peers in their category before developing a media plan. To benchmark against the home care brand’s peers, they looked at purchase frequency. This insight helps brands understand customer loyalty and whether customers are returning to repurchase the brand.

They broke down the percentage of the brand customers who purchased the brand multiple times throughout the year versus those who were one-off—or buying from the brand only once in a given year. Most customers—83%—only purchased the brand on Amazon once per year. 17% came back to make that repeat purchase.

Insights also told them that other brands were more successfully engaging their loyal customers. While some brand customers were coming back and buying from the brand twice in a year, similar brands were seeing more customers coming back and buying twice. Similar brands were also seeing greater success when it came to getting customers to buy three times, four times, and five-plus times. This showed that customers were buying home fragrances multiple times throughout the year; so, the brand had the chance to make sure that when customers came back to buy home fragrances, they were considering the brand.

3. Brand customer value

The home care brand used brand customer value, which they define as the average annual revenue earned per customer, to translate their growth goals into the number of orders and dollars per order they'd need in the upcoming year. These numbers then informed the brand's media plan.
In 2019, they were able to see that the brand had a brand customer value of $15 per customer.

In 2020, the brand wanted to grow by 20%. For 20% growth, based on insights, the brand learned that it needed a media plan that would help increase its customer base from 400K to 488K customers, or engage 88K new customers.

Alternatively, it could try to grow revenue per customer by helping to drive repeat purchase and Subscribe & Save. To achieve the 20% growth goal in this way, customers would need to go from spending $15 annually to $18.30 annually on the brand. In order to reach and exceed the brand’s goals for 2020, the brand learned it needed to invest in both acquisition and loyalty in its media plan.

Recommended solutions for the home care brand

At each stage of the customer journey, the conversation you have with customers is different. So Amazon Advertising offers a variety of ad products that we recommend using at different stages. But here’s what we recommended for the home care brand specifically based on their business needs for 2020.

To drive brand awareness among customers out of the home care aisle, we recommended the brand run ads on Fire TV. These ads enable advertisers to share their brand’s story in high-impact placements.
When customers are in-aisle but haven’t yet discovered the brand, we recommended running ads on Fire tablet and display ads on mobile and desktop. These ads have a clear call to action: Learn more about the brand and its offerings to see if they are the right fit. Plus, the brand's Store on Amazon is a great place for these ads to direct customers to help them learn more about their brand.

To reach audiences who had already viewed the brand products but hadn't purchased, we recommended running ads on and off Amazon via Amazon DSP. These ads can help remind audiences about your products after they’ve visited your product pages. Ads can link right back to the detail page so customers can seamlessly make a purchase.

Lastly, the brand could continue engaging audiences after they’d purchased from the brand using display ads to upsell, cross-sell, or encourage repeat purchases. These customers already love the brand; messaging could be adjusted in order to help them discover more brand offerings or to easily add their favorites to their carts.

Recommended budget for the home care brand

The last step was to set a budget and key KPIs that the home care brand would track throughout the year. When it comes to setting budget, there’s no need to guess or test and learn before finding out the magic number to invest. Using the cost per one thousand impressions, or CPM, for each selected ad product and the size of the audience your brand can engage in each stage, you can strategically arrive at a recommended budget.

For example, the total audience that ‘added to cart’ or viewed the brand’s products but hadn’t purchased the brand yet in a year represented 1.5 to 2MM customers. Since this audience was close to conversion, they wanted to reach as many customers as possible. And at this stage in the journey, the key performance indicator or KPI they looked at was ROAS (return on ad spend). Using the size of the audience they wanted to reach multiplied by the CPM and frequency of engagement, they arrived at a yearly budget of $300K.

This same method for setting budget can be repeated for each stage. Each stage will track different KPIs based on the actions we hope customers will take as a result of seeing your ads.

The home care brand’s results

After seeing our plan and understanding the insights behind each recommendation, the brand made changes from the way they had planned their media in 2019.

They saw the importance of always-on campaigns, both to remarket to interested audiences and to engage those in the aisle. In 2020, they invested more in always-on DSP campaigns – an increase of 79% year over year. They acknowledged that they also needed to begin testing loyalty campaigns, with the goal of encouraging current customers to Subscribe & Save to enjoy increased convenience and discounts.
So far this year, the brand has not only felt more confident in their investment decisions but has also seen early results to prove them.

According to the brand’s eCommerce Manager, “Our current strategy has been working much better than originally expected! We are seeing great results in our growth and brand awareness.”
Amazon has a wealth of insights to help you gauge brand awareness and purchase frequency in order to develop a media plan that effectively targets your KPIs. Learn how to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing and connect with shoppers with consideration advertising and mid-funnel marketing solutions.