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Common Sense and Media Buying: Don’t Spend Your Ad Dollars Based on a Survey of One

By March 31, 2016Blog
common sense media buying
Michelle Caston

Michelle Caston

When it comes to media planning and buying, common sense isn’t as common as you might think. More often than not, media buying decisions are made for two reasons: the buyer is replicating what their predecessor did (and what the company did last year), or the buyer has a “good feeling” about the medium.

Unfortunately, these are two highly inadvisable methods for purchasing media placements, regardless of the channel. Let’s break out why following the beaten path is a less-than-ideal decision in media buying and how to make better choices for your bottom line.

Media Buys Should Never be Decided Purely Through Intuition

We’re all guilty of making decisions based on gut impulse or individual, subjective experiences. To take an example from our working lives: New employees tend to play on past successes, thinking the results at one company will be the same at the next.

Many learn the hard way that what works for one doesn’t work for the next. Imagine if Family Feud only surveyed one person instead of 100 or if one person selected the next U.S. President? In the same way that one person doesn’t determine who is elected president, your media buys should never be based on one person’s experience.

If you’re working with an agency that has experience in media buying, the agency should be able to spot patterns in the buying results and make better decisions than if you were working with reps on your own. For smaller companies (and their agencies), the key to success is taking an evidence-based approach to media-buying.

Research Media Demographics and Interests Before Buying

Before you buy, make sure the media placement matches your consumer demographic. The popularity of a certain medium doesn’t ensure it will match your target audience. The Walking Dead is extremely popular with viewers 18-34, while Downton Abbey is preferred by women 35-49. It doesn’t matter if everyone in your office is talking about the Walking Dead; what’s important is going where your core demographic is spending its time.

Demographic numbers aren’t the only KPI to check. More than 111 Million people watched Super Bowl 50 last February, and advertisers were shelling out $5 million per ad spot to reach such a huge audience. However, just because a third of the country is tuned into a program doesn’t mean it’s an ideal way to reach your demographic. Many people called Super Bowl 49 “the Somber Bowl” because advertisers were trying to push deep messages and pull on heartstrings when viewers were looking to drink beer with friends and yell at the TV. While the audience was there, the interest wasn’t.

This is why research is key before any media purchase. You need to ask: “Who is watching this? Why are they watching it? And what are they doing when they watch it?”

Media Buying Isn’t Personal: Understand Who You’re Targeting

We can’t stress this enough to our clients: Never make buying decisions based on personal preference or favoritism. I’ve seen many companies alter recommended schedules to include a particular station or network that they personally enjoy watching.

Some of the results include the schedules unique listeners/viewers dropping by 18,000 people and the cost increases by 10 to 15 percent, essentially paying more to reach less of your target. In another example, after altering a schedule to include a client preferred station or network, the cost increased by almost 15 percent and the schedule lost more than 1,000 spots and almost 1 million impressions.

It doesn’t matter if you always watch Channel 10 in the morning if your target customer watches Channel 9. This is even more important if Channel 9 has a larger audience and cheaper media costs than Channel 10. Even if you consume a particular media and think it would be great for your audience, keep testing what’s out there until you have enough data to stand behind your gut feeling.

Advertising Success and Comfort are Not Synonymous

When you’re working with a large budget, media buying can be intimidating, and it makes sense for people to crawl back to where they’re comfortable. However, comfort doesn’t necessarily mean success, and without the data and information behind these decisions, you’ll never know what you’re missing out on.

At Mediagistic, our media experts have a passion for research. We focus on our clients’ target geographies and demographics when making our recommendations; in some cases, we do that down to a zip code level. Without assumptions, we give all media options a fair shot and evaluate based on the target market, the listening/viewing habits of the specific demographic. We make sure we have the research to back up our recommendations, and we combine that with experienced judgment and maybe a little common sense.


Michelle Caston is a Key Account Media Manager at Mediagistic. Among her many other responsibilities, she specializes in recommending and executing local media campaigns to drive traffic, sales, and achieve other branding goals. Connect with her on Linkedin.