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home | Feature Articles | Media Planning and Ad Placements Exp . . .

Media Planning and Ad Placements Explained by an Expert
Joanne DeRicco

What does a media planning and placement agency do?

A professional media planning and placement agent provides services that are essential to the development and execution of an efficient and cost-effective media plan.

Planning involves researching and analyzing data to determine the most effective means to get the message to the target audience. A media planner decides which media vehicles to use, how frequently the ads should run and where they should be placed to achieve the maximum reach (the number of people who see the ad) as well as the maximum impact, all within the advertiser's budget.

The buying or placement function involves contacting the various media for proposals based on the above parameters, analyzing and modifying as needed, negotiating rates, programs, etc. to assure that the advertisers needs are met efficiently and effectively.

So the agency provides professional guidance and recommendations to the advertiser, develops the plan, executes the plan, and then acts as liaison between the client and the media in all phases of the process to ensure that the plan is executed as developed.

Why use one?

The simplest answer is to avoid costly mistakes. Keep in mind that every media outlet has a vested interest in getting you to spend your ad dollars with them over someone else. Regardless of whether the specific magazine, newspaper, TV station, internet site, etc. reaches the right audience for your product, it is their job to convince you that their vehicle is the best for you.

An independent media agency should have neither obligation nor allegiance to any media company and should objectively determine a media plan that meets your needs. That independence is your assurance that your media plan is objective and based on solid marketing and not someone's need to reach a sales quota. As with other professional disciplines, you are benefiting from the agent's experience and expertise in navigating the landscape, knowing the right people to contact, the right questions to ask, and when to accept -- or not accept -- the answers.

Should I use different magazines at different times?

Once you have determined that magazines are the right vehicle for you, the choice of which ones to use and when to advertise should be determined by the product you are promoting, who you want to reach and when. Obviously, this applies most to seasonal or themed merchandise, but can also apply to other areas as well.

You may want to promote your jewelry in fashion publications and broaden your scope during 4th quarter to perhaps affluent lifestyle books and / or shelter books to reach a wider audience during the holiday selling season. However, adding a magazine to the mix once during the season and then being absent the rest of the year is NOT recommended.

The key to the long term success of any marketing plan is a balance of reach (the number of people who see your ad) and frequency (the amount of times they are exposed to it). You may make a few sales from the single placement but that does not offer much long term benefit.

Vendors are also consumers and I always counsel advertisers to think as they do when they are the customer. When you are ready to purchase something, especially something of value, aren't you more likely to buy a name with which you are more familiar? Positive brand recognition begins with familiarity.

Are regional magazines a good idea?

Absolutely, IF they reach the right audience. Just because a magazine or any other media has a local audience, it does not necessarily follow that it is your audience. The question to ask is whether their readers / viewers / listeners match your customer. You must be very mindful of who they reach and how. As with any media, the judgment should be based on the quantity and quality of the audience, not just where they live.

Regional magazines, or regional buys in national magazines, can also be very effective, especially for companies that have limited distribution. If you are carried predominately in the West and Southwest, running something nationally will deliver a lot of wasted circulation; you are paying to reach potential customers to whom you cannot sell your product. So, in this instance, utilizing regional media or regional buys in national media can serve you well.

What if I don't have retail accounts yet or just have a department store?

If you have no retail accounts yet, it would be premature to begin advertising, unless you are selling direct. Odd as it may sound, people have done just that and placed ads in consumer publications in the hopes of getting retailer attention and perhaps opening doors by having consumers drive the interest.

It can work, but I think the successes are few and far between. I have also been told about cases where a customer came in to the local retailer asking if they carried a specific product they saw in an ad. Since the retailer did not carry the line, the customer was sold another piece from a competitive collection that they did carry. So, advertising without a means of distribution can be risky business.

If you are carried in a department store, the scenarios vary greatly as to where, how and when ad dollars are spent depending on the store / chain policies and how many of their stores carry your line. Sometimes, co-op programs are in place so the formula is already determined.

Sometimes the store determines the advertising plan and the jeweler contributes toward the expense, and anything beyond that comes out of the jeweler's pocket, and then sometimes is it a more cooperative effort.

How do I create a good-looking ad? Should I use models?

As the saying goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." We've all seen ads that are spectacular as well as ads that are pretty awful. But I bet the folks behind those ugly ads would disagree with the assessment. Since it is a subjective determination, the best advice I can give is to be mindful of the image you present: quality photography, quality production, clean design, and a clear and consistent message are critical.

You may want to take a look at the magazines you are considering to see the ads they carry and take some cues from the more established brands. Remember this is an ad, not a page from your catalogue. You are competing for the attention of very sophisticated and savvy consumers. Don't cheat on good design and production because you will be undermining the effort and wasting the money spent on the space.

Must an ad always be full page to send the right message?

Absolutely not. Obviously, a full page ad has maximum impact amongst consumers as well as the trade for they too watch closely to see who supports their brands and how. But that does not mean that anything smaller is ineffective. Again, good creative design, quality imagery and production, a clear, consistent message, and a good frequency schedule -- and the right media plan, of course -- matter most.

There are companies that have run fractional sized ads for years very successfully, and they have become a signature in fact. Yet, if you can afford to run full page ads, the benefits go beyond impact and profile. Depending on the publication, there may be more positioning flexibility with full pages than fractional size ads that can be harder to place because there are fewer spaces available.

Also, if you are listing retailers, you may be able to accommodate additional store tags in a full page. (Caution: whether you run a full page or a fractional page, do not compromise the look of your ad with too many listings; it cheapens the effort.) The goal is to get people to stop and take notice, in a good way, so size doesn't always matter.

Joanne DeRicco
55 Fifth Avenue 18th floor
New York NY 10003
Tel: 212 463 901

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