Big Media Shops Launch New Channel Planning Tool, Reveal Strength For Radio, Papers, Mags

Five leading media shops - Carat, Initiative, Mediaedge:cia, MindShare and PHD - Thursday received the first installment of data from a new system designed to bring the same rigor to channel planning that agencies have previously used for media planning. The system, known as Compose, developed jointly by WPP's Kantar Media Research unit and Dutch software developer pointlogic, measures how consumers are impacted by advertising messages in a broad array of communications channels that go well beyond traditional media like TV, radio, magazines and newspapers, including things like search, word-of-mount, public relations and the personal recommendations of friends, families, colleagues and even doctors.

While most big media shops have embraced the concept of communications channel planning in some form, and many have developed their own proprietary methods for measuring their role in the mix, Compose provides a standardized measure that big agencies can use to compare their own intuitive sense of the value of alternative channels to objective industry benchmarks.



Compose is similar to another system known as Media Contact Audits, which has been embraced by rival agencies, especially Starcom MediaVest Group, which has been championing it as a breakthrough in the science of communications planning. While little is known publicly about how MCA works, Kantar and pointlogic provided MediaDailyNews with a sneak preview of Compose hours before it was released to the agencies. What it shows is that many non-traditional media platforms have far more impact with consumers than the traditional ad-supported media, insights which Compose's developers believe could lead to profound shifts in media spending over time.

In fact, such personal experiences as "recommendations by friends/family," product sampling, coupons/promotions, professional recommendations, and examining products in stores, have significantly greater impact than any conventional media buys. The most powerful communications medium overall, according to the study, is print--albeit editorial content, not advertising. "Print articles" were deemed the most persuasive media channel, suggesting a bigger role for public relations in the future.

Television advertising ranks next, followed by in-store advertising, newspaper advertising, magazine advertising, company Web sites, online search, radio advertising and free customer magazines. Such traditional media as radio, outdoor, direct mail, cinema, branded Internet advertising, and transit ads ranked far lower in the study.

"We think this will lead to a greater distribution of dollars among the media," said Hugh White, one of the Kantar executives that championed the new product.

Compose, which was first introduced in the U.K., is based on three elements: a survey of 2,200 American consumers; a survey of 60 American media planning and buying executives; and some sophisticated computer modeling data developed by pointlogic that processes the data, and powers an easy-to-use, intuitive desktop system that will be used by researchers, planners and buyers at the agencies.

While communications channel planning is the cause celebre of media agencies, it is still frequently relegated to specialty teams within agencies. Compose is expected to be installed on the desktops of every media planner within its subscribing agencies, suggesting that channel planning could begin to have a substantial impact on conventional media plans over time. The most obvious impact, said Kantar's White, might be a dilution of television's share of media spending, as well as its role as the so-called "base buy" of conventional media plans.

Compose subscribers don't plan to use the system as a black box that would dictate their channel choices, but as a tool for testing various mix scenarios, says Sarah Power, vice president-director of consumer strategies at Carat.

"The idea behind this system isn't that there are bad media and good media, but that some media do a better job than other media for certain communications tasks or brand planning goals," explains Peter Kloprogge, managing director of pointlogic, who is overseeing the U.S. launch.

In fact, when specific consumer attributes are applied, such as the ability to generate awareness of a brand, communicate the price of an advertising message, or convey a sense of trust, marked differences among communications channels begin to emerge. By experimenting with various scenarios and testing various spending patterns, planners can use the tool to challenge their own conventional thinking about the role of media.

Kloprogge says some surprising patterns among media have already emerged from the top line analyses of the data. "The consumer perception of radio seems to be stronger than many people think," he says. "Consumer perception of newspapers is also quite strong."

Kantar's White adds that when specific communications attributes are factored in, such as "trust," magazine advertising rises to the top.

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