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Media Plans

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Media Plans

The largest category in your advertising budget is likely to be your media costs--the dollars you spend for air time on radio or for ad space in newspapers, magazines, and more. Because of this, it makes sense to have a sound plan to manage that investment. You'll want to set goals. You'll want to describe strategies for achieving them. You'll have to organize the day-to-day tasks of carrying out the strategies. The tool you'll need to do this is a media plan that begins with an overview and works its way down to the details. It will help you with every phase of your advertising.

Here's how many businesses manage their media buying. The person in charge of the budget starts saying yes to the salespeople who call. Advertising appears here and there as a result. When the budget's gone, the person in charge starts saying no, and the ad campaign is over. It's a method, but you wouldn't call it a media plan. And if that approach sounds familiar, you can bet you're passing up opportunities to maximize your return on investment.

Media planning is the process of choosing a course of action. Media planners develop yearly plans that list each media outlet--print or broadcast. Planning then gives way to buying, as each separate contract is negotiated, then finalized.

The media plan is a document in sections. A ring binder notebook is a good way to keep a media plan, because it's easy to update and easy to refer to. Or if you prefer to work on computer, simply think in terms of folders and files. The sections in your notebook will be:

  • Media outlets (newspapers, etc.). This section lists all of the media in which advertising will be placed.
  • Goals. This section describes the goals of the advertising, and explains why and how this plan meets these goals.
  • Audience. In this section, collect all the information you can about your target audience. You will want statistics by demographics or lifestyle; your professional association can help you find this information, as can trade journals or your banker. Look for any relevant articles or information about your potential buyers. Pay attention to everything that helps you imagine an individual buyer who is typical of the whole.
  • Strategy. You will write a statement of strategy backed up by a rationale. The action steps you describe here will guide a year's activity.
  • Budget and calendar. Your media plan will outline what money is to be spent where, and when.

The document you've compiled in this notebook guides you in the execution of the plan throughout the year.

Over time, these plans provide a history of your advertising. If you make alterations to the schedule in the course of the year, be sure to record those decisions in your notebook. Ring binders make it easy to update your plan as it evolves.

When you've finished this section, you will have an overview and the tools you need to create a media plan for your business. Let's start with basic vocabulary. The term you'll hear most often is CPM, or cost per thousand. CPM analysis is the method media buyers use to convert various rate and circulation options to relative terms. CPM represents the cost of reaching one thousand people via different types of media. To calculate CPM, you find the cost for an ad, then divide it by the total circulation the ad reaches (in thousands). By finding this information and calculating this cost for each of your options, you can give them a numerical ranking for comparison. CPM is a basic media concept.

Print advertising prices are based on the circulation of the publication in question. Publications will quote you a circulation figure based on paid subscribers. The audited circulation figures are verified by monitoring organizations. The publications will try to convince you that actual circulation is higher by including the free copies they distribute and the pass-along readership they claim. Sometimes these claims of "bonus" circulation are valid--for example, magazines distributed on airlines get at least eight readers per copy. Still, you should be wary of inflated circulation figures.

Audience is the equivalent of circulation when you're talking about broadcast media. Audience size varies throughout the day as people tune in and tune out. Therefore, the price for advertising at different times of day will vary, based on the audience size that the day-part delivers.

Penetration is related to circulation. Penetration describes how much of the total market available you are reaching. If you are in a town with a demographic count of 200,000 households, and you buy an ad in a coupon book that states a circulation of 140,000, you're reaching 70 percent of the possible market--high penetration. If, instead, you bought an ad in the city magazine, which goes to only 17,000 subscribers (households), your penetration would be much less--8.5 percent. What degree of penetration is necessary for you depends on whether your strategy is to dominate the market or to reach a certain niche within that market.

Reach and frequency are key media terms used more in broadcast than in print. Reach is the total number of people exposed to a message at least once in a set time period, usually four weeks. (Reach is the broadcast equivalent of circulation, for print advertising.) Frequency is the average number of times those people are exposed during that time period. To make reach go up, you buy a wider market area. To make frequency go up, you buy more ads during the time period. Usually, when reach goes up, you have to compromise and let frequency go down. You could spend a lot of money trying to achieve a high reach and a high frequency. The creative part of media planning comes in balancing reach, frequency, and budget constraints to find the best combination in view of your marketing goals.

In developing your media plan, you will:

  • Review your marketing objectives through the "lens" of media planning.
  • Review the options available.
  • Evaluate them against your objectives.
  • Set your minimum and maximum budget constraints.
  • Create alternative scenarios until you uncover the strategy that accomplishes your objectives within those constraints.
  • Develop a schedule describing ad appearances in each medium.
  • Summarize your plan in the form of a calendar and a budget.
  • Negotiate with media representatives to execute your plan.

    * Source Streetwise Do-It-Yourself Advertising
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