Media Buying: As Easy As Pie?

“As easy as pie?”

I've always wondered about the origin of this phrase, because pies aren't especially easy to make. The process is part science, part art -- not altogether different from media buying.

Did I just compare buying media to making a pie? Indeed I did.

Working for an ad agency that has been in the business for more than 50 years and coming from a long line of pie makers, I feel this is an analogy I am qualified to make.

For example, with a pie, you begin with a scientific formula (commonly known as a recipe). It tells you what ingredients to use and how much of each. It then provides a step-by-step set of instructions. If followed correctly, these instructions will yield a perfect (maybe even an award-winning) pie every time.

Of course, if you believe that, I have some prime TV time I’d like to sell you.

The truth is -- you might get a decent result by following a recipe “to the T,” but you’re not going to collect any major hardware at the National Pie Championships. Not by a Betty Crocker long shot.



Why? Because there’s another ingredient needed that you won’t find in any recipe: experience.

Anyone off the street can follow a recipe. But you simply cannot underestimate the experience of the person wearing the apron. The baker still has to use judgment about possibly adding more flour on humid days, letting the dough rest in the refrigerator for longer than the recipe requires (if it's not coming together well), or even knowing exactly when to take the finished pie out of the oven.

The same approach to pie making can be applied to the art of media buying. Start with a recipe – in this case it would ideally be a wealth of data from a very sophisticated database and buying system. Then apply a hefty amount of experience and good judgment.

Here is an example of how this media-buying recipe might work. Let’s say a client airs a direct response spot during the midday news and it doesn’t achieve the desired cost per response. Was it because it was a slow news day? Was it because Dr. Oz -- running at the same time on a different channel -- had a major celebrity as a guest and drew viewers away from the news? Or was this a sign of a downward trend, which should trigger a negotiation for lower rates with the station immediately?

It takes an experienced buyer to interpret data like this and ensure the final decisions will net in “pie in the sky” results. And the more experience a buyer has, the better his or her judgment will be. That experience can lead to knowing what’s wrong without spending hours or even days checking numerous data points. Intuition is a result of deep experience, and so she can intuit right away whether Dr. Oz is at fault or a downward trend is the culprit. Her hunches might not be 100% accurate, but they’re correct far more often than not.

Let me leave you with one last tip: if you want a flakier piecrust, science tells us that substituting some water with vodka really helps. And if you think you can achieve optimal media results without relying on experience and proper judgment, just like with baking a pie, you may also want to get your hands on some vodka. 


1 comment about "Media Buying: As Easy As Pie?".
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  1. Carol Michael from Media Solutions, September 13, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.

    Nice to hear experience counts for something!

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