When Media Buying Fails Marketers

Marketers and agencies face an increasingly complex media landscape. Digital media has rendered certain media buying strategies and metrics obsolete, and increased the human resources agencies need to allocate large sums of marketer funds for.

The search continues for universal metrics that will define new-media success. Meanwhile, there has been a noticeable trend in digital media buying towards something that doesn't work; I like to call it The Frankenstein Plan, and it's a monster.

While new media does not have a universal metric (like GRPs for television), there is a suite of new-media metrics that marketers generally agree are important -- such as video views, impressions, shares (conversations), clicks (interactions), time spent, comments, and numbers of fans and "likes." The problem?  Not all of these metrics are meant to be bought; some are just used to measure the quality of buying the others. Metrics are only as valuable as the methods used to achieve them.



So what is a Frankenstein Plan? It is when a media buy is split into disconnected initiatives, each targeting specific metrics at the lowest cost possible, so that the results can be aggregated later. For example, buying super cheap CPMs helps to hit a campaign's overall impression goals, but super cheap CPMs are super cheap for a reason. Interaction rates will be low, as will shares, and you can forget fans. But that can be fixed because cheaper fan acquisition channels are available, so a part of the budget is carved off for fan acquisition. But the cheapest fan acquisition channels don't provide a lot of time spent or brand value. And so the media plan continues down the rabbit hole, and becomes a complex monster mash-up of the cheapest channels for achieving each desired metric.

The Internet publishing world is full of smart people who can build products that deliver individual metrics, without necessarily delivering value. And it is only going to get harder for agencies to sort through the mess.

The impact of a Frankenstein plan does not equal the sum of its metrics, because how you achieve metrics matters. The best agencies and clients avoid creating monsters by buying certain metrics and holding publishers accountable for performance against other metrics. Returning to the example above, rather than buying the cheapest CPMs with minimal interactions, they will buy premium media impressions and expect a certain number of interactions, comments and fans/likes generated as a measure of performance.

Countless other examples show how buying the lowest cost providers to fill various metrics buckets leads to more work for agencies and less value for clients, but the trend seems to be gaining momentum. It is the client's job at the end of the day to look for a holistic approach to media buying.

Thoughts? How does the industry avoid creating monsters? Or just tell me how wrong I am:

6 comments about "When Media Buying Fails Marketers ".
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  1. Bruce May from Bizperity, January 25, 2011 at 3:22 p.m.

    You are well focused on the underlying reality of digital metrics. What everyone seems to keep missing is the simple fact that interactions can and should lead to something more interesting... some kind of meaningful engagement through customer behavior that generates real, bottom line results. Think like a CEO and ask yourself, what does this really do for me? In old world advertising (as in before the Internet), except for direct response, there was little connection or accountability between campaigns and results. Given the key objective (leads/branding/influence, etc.), the causal connection was direct (if it existed at all). Now the causal connection may take place over a series of engagements/responses as a customer/prospect interacts in multiple ways with a brand, involving multiple ads, business controlled web and mobile experiences as well as ongoing customer interactions that occur as part of the customer life cycle. The missing piece is between the first engagement/response and the opportunity to leverage that into a longer set of interactions. That requires additional attention on the part of the business that controls what happens through various online and real life experiences that are still too often ignored altogether. We have so many more opportunities to create and manage these touch points but because they occur outside the scope of a single campaign no one seems to consider how they should be managed.

  2. Nancy Padberg from Navigate Boomer Media, January 25, 2011 at 3:43 p.m.

    You are right on Joe, cheap CPM's are not good for anyone. I am still shocked to hear media buyers paying for remnant space, how do you tell your client this? Cheap means remnant, non-targeted demo or placement on a site that does not have relevant content. You get what you pay for - no results. Here's an interesting thought - Adults 18 - 34 do not have much expendable income after rent, concerts, cell phone bills and food. However Adults 45 - 65 spend $2 Trillion annually, with billions being spent online - in fact boomers spend 3X online each month then Gen X. Did you know 8 out of 10 boomers own their own home? They buy 7 cars over age 50? You can't argue with the numbers - 78 million boomers spending 15 hours per week online (teens 13 hours), and few companies target them - we would see the response rate and results ultimately increase if brands would embrace this healthy, wealthy, smart demo online. Thanks for the great insight! Nancy, CEO Navigate Boomer Media

  3. Roy Perry from Greater Media Philadelphia, January 25, 2011 at 5:20 p.m.

    So fill me in - do marketers using this recipe just KILL their category inside 24 hours, with a checkmark in every metric column? Missed the press on that. For every action, a million reactions can be counted with speed and precision and there's a nouveau jargon name for each one. Cool. Count the bubbles instead: Dotcom. Real estate. Metrics.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 25, 2011 at 6:40 p.m.

    There are always preditors who love to buy remnants. DUI lawyers, tech schools, cash for your car, tax preps and such love mindless programming.

  5. Chuck Hengel from Marketing Architects, January 25, 2011 at 10 p.m.

    When you add cost efficiency to the metric list, you get cost efficiency, as we will manage to, what we are asked to manage to. When you blend metrics, like you should, you get confusion. Yet cost cutting is a finite exercise, and performing increasing is an infinite activity. I hope their is more than one right answer, because a lot of people have different answers.

  6. Kevin Bullard from ILFUSION Creative, January 26, 2011 at 8 a.m.

    This guy is so right it makes my teeth hurt!

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