Accessible ABCs make media planning a cinch

When planning media, it’s essential to have all the requisite information to hand – and to be sure it is reliable. All hail the ABCs, says Paul Philpott

Whether it’s a product of perceived or actual economic constraints or merely a result of a more discerning approach to marketing, no one would deny that “targeting” and “return on investment” have become mantras for most marketing directors over the past year.

The reality, of course, is that the two are inextricably linked. Get your targeting right and both the quality and the quantity of your return is likely to rise accordingly. The skill lies in producing a marketing mix that offers both mass-market exposure – to build or change perceptions of the brand – and the targeted exposure that contributes to sales volume.

My own company’s products each demand different degrees of media support. The starting point in gauging this is an assessment of an individual product’s contribution to overall sales volume and brand strength. This, together with a consideration of the brand values of the product, helps with the targeting of likely consumers and is used to inform our media planning.

At Toyota, for instance, we feel that we have managed to wring great value out of television advertising – we have found it provides us with an effective platform from which to influence perceptions of our brand. In formulating our marketing strategy, we try to exploit that value in support of more precise targeting, through consumer magazines.

Consumer titles continue to play an important part in our media strategy. They offer a high-quality environment in which to position the brand and products, yet provide the flexibility we need to achieve our targeting objectives. Small cars, for instance, can be positioned with the help of ads in women’s titles, while ads for sportier models might appear in men’s or sports titles. At the same time, we have moved away from run-of-paper advertising in national newspapers, as consumer magazines have consistently delivered a better return on our investment.

The ready online availability of circulation data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABCs) is particularly useful. It arms marketers with the very latest data and has helped me, at least, to do what I believe not enough marketing directors do – assess the media from my own particular perspective and not rely too heavily on the views of my media buying agency. It’s extremely useful to have the latest circulation data at my disposal when media owners come in to see me, rather than relying on the data which the publication claims to be the latest.

My confidence in the consumer magazine sector is due in no small part to the quality and transparency of the data available. In this sense, ABC data provides the nearest thing to an effective guarantee of quality that I am likely to get. It gives me reassurance and, just as importantly, gives marketers the data we need to monitor shifts in particular titles over any given period of time. In short, it’s data we can believe in.

Paul Philpott is marketing director of Toyota GB

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