Big Media Shops Compose Their Thoughts, Plan Channels Better

By the time you read this article, five leading media agencies will be making better decisions about which channels work best for their clients' brands than they were just two months earlier. The reason? Compose, a new channel-planning software tool, designed by Kantar Media Group and built by Pointlogic, with substantial input from the project's five charter subscribers: Carat, Initiative, Mediaedge:CIA, Mindshare, and PHD.

Compose was developed with intelligence gleaned from a survey of 2,200 consumers. It launched in a pilot program in the U.K. in early 2004 and in the U.S. in October 2005. It analyzes 28 different media channels against consumers' perceptions of their value as they relate to trust, quality, information, and purchasing likelihood.

"We asked consumers if they'd had experience in purchasing any number of products during a reasonable time frame -- for example, 'rented a car in last 12 months' or 'bought toiletries in last 30 days,'" explains Hugh White, managing director of Kantar Media Group's mars unit. White says Kantar tracked consumers' involvement in each of 31 product categories. "We learned whether having detailed information about brands before buying is important and at what level of importance; we learned the importance in having a lot of trust in a brand, choosing a brand based on price, having previous experience with the brand, and choosing a brand or product because it is of high quality," he adds.

Next, the group surveyed 60 industry experts, including the five agency partners. "We had a lot of questions that consumers couldn't answer, such as the importance of a day part," White says. "Consumers can tell us whether trust or quality are important, but...not [whether] they want to run an ad in primetime."

New Insights

For the first time, the agencies will be able to analyze their channel decisions in conjunction with brand values. "We will have a real basis for making decisions that will support the priorities of the brand," says Fran Kennish, senior partner and director of strategic planning for Mediaedge:CIA. "We'll be able to set up the brand objectives or change them, and see how the channels impact the plan. And we'll have data to support the decision."

"It begins to tell us what the most important values or attributes are that can be reinforced by specific media channels," adds David Ernst, executive vice president and director of futures and technologies at Initiative. "For instance, if trust is a very important aspect of why [consumers] visit home improvement retailers, and in the next part of the survey they are saying TV is good at conveying trust, then there is a high likelihood that if we want to reinforce trust, that TV would be a good environment. We've always tried to do this, but this is going to give us a bit more information."

Sarah Power, senior vice president and strategy director, Carat North America, adds: "Being able to evaluate clients' marketing plans, doing simulations of different budget levels, and understanding how those budget levels would be impacted by different drivers -- that's something we've really never been able to do before. We've typically looked at one piece of the marketing pie but now, instead of individual pieces, we're able to look at the whole pie by looking across what our partner agencies see."

The program is customizable. "The software allows you to override any of the benchmarking information available to include information from other sources," Power says. "The tool also allows you to put in the cost for each channel and to optimize your budget given your objectives to create an overall budget and understanding of the value and channel priorities."

Phase II of the project is already in the works. "We see this as an ongoing product," White says. "We'll probably do it annually."

Lynn Russo is a regular contributor to MEDIA magazine. This article is republished from the December issue.

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