The Media Buying Evolution Delivers Big Wins

Long gone are the days of Don Draper of Mad Men drumming up wild creative plans with just the right panache and a little bit of this intrigue and a little bit of that fantasy to solve your advertising needs.  While creative is certainly important in your media campaign – it’s hardly the end all be all.  Without the proper media planning and buying, your genius creative may land in the wrong audience with no response at all.  And if you do not have the frequency, who will remember it?

Let’s see how media planning and buying has evolved over the years. As media opportunity evolves, so does the ad world. Sometimes this is due to technology advances and sometimes it’s as simple as a new invention, like a billboard.  Through these advancements, media planners and buyers continue to be served new opportunities in new form factors. It’s important to consider how to approach new opportunities – just like a new model car may not have all the bugs out – will this media opportunity be hot for the long run, short on delivery, or get in early as this is going to take off fast?!

First, let’s take a look at the history of media buying which also details the evolution of advertising:

The first ever advertisement in the world was written on papyrus in 3000 B.C. by a slave owner offering a half gold coin for news on his runaway slave’s whereabouts and a whole gold coin for his safe return to his fine fabrics shop where you could have anything crafted to your liking. Messaging was interesting to say the least.

Outdoor media was the most common method of advertising in the years before the printing press. From sandwich boards to flyers, to posters, and building wall ads. This industry did not die but evolved as freeway signs, top of building signs, banners towed by an airplane, public transportation, and more brought more options for advertisers to reach the growing population. Outdoor media brought in 6.07 billion dollars in 2020.

The invention of the printing press enables news to travel fast and wide as well as be supported by print ads. This beats the sandwich board approach with the ability to reach far more people – yet look at the sign spinners centuries later; the equation here is that at certain traffic corners these days, you receive hundreds of thousands of impressions (times your ad is viewed). Thus, why planning and buying is so important.

Next up in the invention hall of fame is broadcast radio advertising. With the invention of broadcast radio, for the first time ever, you could broadcast soundwaves far and near. Radio stations have genres they broadcast their content in. For example, one station may be news 24/7 and have a conservative focus, while another may be a rock station with a morning show. This now enables the media planner to target the optimal audience based on what the station was broadcasting and understanding who their audience is.

The next big hitter in advertising history is one of everyone’s favorites, broadcast television advertising. With the invention of broadcast television and network TV, mainstream advertising was born. Nationwide coverage on very targeted media. A dream come true for packaged goods companies like Unilever and Proctor & Gamble.  As of June 2021, it’s reported that 65.66 billion dollars are spent on network TV.

After the invention of broadcast TV came cable networks. While it seems so ordinary today, it was disruptive to the market when it arrived in the modern version of cable television during the early 80s. HBO was the first-ever national cable network with a pay for subscription, which protected it from backlash for commercial revenue being taken from the powerful networks. However, as you note in most industries that the consumer drives the demand and if they want it, that’s how the business will flourish, and the navigations in between need careful consideration.

And then the industry game changer entered the market in 1994, the worldwide internet. A necessity in 307 million US lives. Initially used for scholastic purposes and then swiftly was adopted by businesses for a variety of purposes. However, it’s the publishing companies that really cashed in here with online advertising – there was a slow rate pf monetizing online or even migrating to the unknown.  However with the rapid consumer demand, they learned how to make their print, TV, and radio work with this new unknown.  The ability to target gets even better. As of 2021, online advertising in the US accounted for 189.3 billion dollars in ad revenue.

Another game changer enters the market next, Google search engine with Google Ads. There were plenty of search engines on the market but being the best was Google’s focus and thus their success with consumer adoption. A simple example of why Google succeeded early on, was that when you search using Internet Explorer for a Linux computer that a Windows computer would show up above what you were actually searching for. Google believes in being product agnostic to their own product offerings. They are beholden to consumer demand and that means honest businesses that do a good job and treat customers well. Google Ads, formerly known as AdWords, generated 209.9 billion dollars globally in 2021.

Next comes internet 2.0 where the internet creates addicts to screens. A revolutionary moment in advertising history that would be hard to imagine reproducing. People pouring through thousands of pages daily, spending 8 hours a day online. Now enter the most prominent historically, Facebook. Facebook was launched February 4, 2004.  Behavioral data hast hit the market in a new form, more advanced than credit card data as it’s granular to what they click on when nobody is looking; augment this with their friends, their hobbies (as reported by the Facebook user while creating their page}, their boyfriend or girlfriend, places they visit, their occupation, and more. Facebook is considered a walled garden, meaning you can only target folks on Facebook and other publishers cannot serve media into your platform. In 2021 Facebook reported $114 billion in global ad sales.

YouTube was also in the same era as Facebook, launching a year later on February 14, 2005, out of San Mateo, California. The first big dive into self-publishing, which is a further extension of social networking. This enables video messages to be shared before our phones could share messages. This enabled anyone with a camera and internet connection anywhere to broadcast their own show. Plenty of celebrities started on YouTube – just check out Justin Bieber. YouTube reported 28.8 billion dollars in ad revenue in 2021. And as an incentive to feed their audience, they share 55% of the revenue with content creators.

Enter streaming media accessible on your internet television and you’ve found our latest and greatest of inventions. Amazon’s Unbox launched in 2006, Netflix and Apple TV both launched in 2007, while Hulu launched in 2009.  Simultaneously, internet devices open a new industry with consumers having options from Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, and many other tertiary platforms. All sides of this equations are creating new ad products to monetize their platform / media. In 2008 this streaming media has been enabled on mobile devices, increasing the reach for folks on the go.  This also enabled geotargeting in mobile phones, enabling the media planner to target ads to users based on their location – more industry changing technology further improving our ability to target users with one-to-one marketing.  Back to monetizing streaming media, which is another extreme ad industry disrupter. Prior to streaming media, access to this inventory took some deep pockets. Now, even production costs are a song with the high-definition recording available in your camera phone. It’s projected that mobile ads will account for 327.4 billion dollars globally in 2022.

Right in the middle of the streaming revolution came another method to purchase advertising online. This is called real time bidding and is based on having a supply side (aggregate priority and remnant impressions from publishers) and a demand side where advertisers may bid on impressions from a suite of sites. This also includes 3rd party data so you can target exactly who you want. Data targeting has never been so good. The RTB model is based on the stock market and supply and demand. Now, practically any brand or person with a website can buy impressions on the home page of MSN, Yahoo!, Fortune magazine, and many more priority locations.

Now when you combine RTB that launched during the streaming revolution with streaming commercial ad opportunities, you have the birth of Over the Top Media, often referred to as OTT media. This revolution is another game changer, enabling anyone to put an ad on TV. Low production cost can be designed with video or even slide shows with images and a voiceover.  QR codes are being used as calls to action to further an otherwise untraceable CTA. Annual global streaming ad revenue is projected to be 275.3 billion in 2022.

Media Planning

We have come a long way since 3000 BC – congratulations to the media planners and buyers as your job has changed drastically with each new media platform and buying options. Along with each new combination came more and more targeting using pixel data. Pixels enable you to capture important details that help you build out your media funnel.

The planner needs to identify which media is appropriate for which buyer persona at each stage of the funnel.  For example, people looking for your product that do not know about your brand needs an awareness campaign. The following are targeting options you would have available to you online:

  • Target your competitor’s store locations or website addresses
  • Target behavior data associated with your product or service
  • Target age, gender, HHI, hobby interests, homeowner, interest in luxury goods, and much more.

People that know about your brand and looking for a product or service you are offering are considered in-market shoppers and in the next phase of your funnel. You need to spend money on media and efforts here to sway your prospect that your brand is the best choice for their needs. The following media planning would go into this:

  • Promote product and service reviews
  • Provide case studies with successes stories and use native advertising
  • Produce white papers that use native advertising
  • Solicit video customer testimonial and use in social media and display advertising

Your next level in-market shopper is going to check out all the information they can absorb online – possibly visit a store to see the product in -person or even buy in store. This type of media planning is best used on Google Ads and Bing Ads as people search using the terms, “near me” and “buy X”.  Google reports that 50% of local searches result in an in-person visit to the local business within 2 hours.

Media Planning Forecasting

Now that we have the basics of advertising options, buying methods, and targeting options, we need to determine how much to spend at each level. This is going to need to be customized for each product and service based on current benchmarks. Benchmarks include:

  • Current customer count
  • Current market share
  • Current order volume
  • Current customer lifetime value

If you are a new product or service advertising, you will spend the majority of your money in top of funnel awareness targeting your competition and persona demos and psychographics.

If you are an existing brand with data, you will need to identify your customer journey and how long it takes from 1st impression to purchase. This will help you understand how many people are in your funnel at which stage of the funnel to determine how you need to spend your ad dollars in the different stages of the funnel. Larger companies have brand dollars that are not tied to an ROI, rather to an impression share that naturally should correlate to their market share.

Additional tactics outside of advertising may be used at the bottom of the funnel to encourage loyalty which may also turn your customers into marketers for you – get them to brag about you – this is FREE advertising.  See our blog on Loyalty marketing here>>

Media Buying

This is the negotiator – it is exactly what it says, this person pays for the media that the planner identified as necessary to target each stage of the funnel with how they find best. The buyer must negotiate the price for the media with direct buys. This often includes buying from multiple platforms (e.g., print, online, outdoor, and cable) from the same buyer; this has two benefits: Multiple exposures to the same audience as well as discounted prices for a larger commitment. Together these two benefits are considered media buying efficiencies and favored by agencies.

Because media companies share inventory to several partners, you will be able to find a media publisher with access to all the inventory you are seeking for a major segment of your market and save on the overall cost of the ad buy. You then can make additional purchases to layer on the walled garden media like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google Ads for a comprehensive media strategy.

Media buying and planning has evolved to be a dynamic mathematical analysis into many areas not previously evaluated for media strategy effectiveness and now provides great insight for better advertising return. Be sure to set your conversion metrics and micro conversions so you can see behavior intent as you learn how to optimize your ads.


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