The old media methods certainly aren’t best

The old approach to media, including the use of industry-standard data to make decisions, are obsolete. Andrew Marsden looks at the consumer-first approaches that are taking over. Andrew Marsden is marketing director at Britvic

With so much choice out there now, it seems we have to look again at the way we think about media, the tools we use to plan media and where the discipline fits within the whole communication process. I would hypo- thesise that the media-planning function has lagged depressingly behind the massive changes in the media environment.

Most of the techniques and research tools used by the majority of UK media companies were first developed more than 40 years ago – most are in mid-life crisis, if not well past their sell-by date.

Managing many of today’s so-called innovative media techniques merely involves more sophisticated refinements and fusion methods based on these data sources.

Frankly the idea that some all-purpose magic “black box” exists which can help us decide where our media money should go is patently ridiculous. So what should replace this approach to media?

For the past 40 years the media function has been all about process, that is effective manipulation of data and buying at the best possible price. But in this emerging world of information overload, clearly the role of media is now different. We call it the “consumer-first approach”, because it starts with the consumer not the industry-standard data.

In these days when the medium is often as important as the message to consumers, surely it is time to put a stop to the process where the advertising agency creatives decide which medium we use.

At Britvic, the media strategists contribute ideas to the communications process before the creative work even begins. They also have direct input into the creative brief.

I think it is far better to consider media’s key role as the generation of “involvement” with the brand. To deliver the right brand values in the right environment to people who are likely to be receptive to what you have to say.

This kind of thinking ensures that every possible media option (including so-called new media) is properly considered and evaluated as a possibility.

So what do we actually do? Instead of relying on black boxes, we create our own data. We’re not interested in media data that tells us what 4 million 16- to 24-year-olds are supposedly consuming in their media. We’re only interested in what the consumers and potential consumers of our brands actually do and think.

For this reason we conduct both qualitative and quantitative research before all our campaigns to understand how our consumers connect with their media. We leave the standard industry data to be used as a trading currency.

It seems to me that real competitive advantage comes from knowing something about your consumers that the enemy doesn’t. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that separating media strategy from implementational buying is a primary way of achieving this. It delivers brand-oriented thinking that, in turn, delivers quality, rather than empty rating points.

In the end, whether you choose to leverage old media or new media in your quest to communicate with your consumers, success will depend on knowing the answer to one simple question: how and what media do your consumers consume – and what are their feelings about it all?

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