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It’s an exciting and unpredictable time to be in digital media planning – especially in the agency world.

New media properties seem to pop up daily, social media trends are constantly evolving, and competition for ad space is hotter than ever.

Even so, it’s in this mayhem that independent agencies thrive. So long as they’re agile enough to adapt.

Brands now look to agencies with fresh approaches to creating a digital media plan to help flex with the times and reach target audiences impactfully and efficiently.

But what exactly is digital media planning?

It’s a process that involves developing a digital marketing plan that supports online media ad campaigns. Its purpose is to optimize a company’s message and create brand awareness across multiple channels – from social media and search to display and mobile.

Here, we give you all the tips and tricks for unlocking your client’s target audience using insights mined from survey data, so you can feed it into your media plans, and get a clear steer on ad placement.

4 digital media planning tips to ace your marketing strategy

1. Look beyond demographics and behaviors
2. Size up the market with actual numbers
3. Dive head-first into the cookieless future
4. Take it up a notch with harmonized data 

1. Look beyond demographics and behaviors

Every agency approaches market research and digital media buying differently, but the end goal stays the same:

Get to know your client’s target audience on the deepest level possible.

Clients may think they have a solid idea of their market, but they love being shown new opportunities – especially when you’ve got the data to back it up.

Here’s how the team at WeAreSocial kicks off their market research:

“We try to answer a few specific questions around four areas: the consumer, the brand, the category, and the wider culture”, says Jamie Robinson, Global Research and Insight Director.

The devil’s in the details though, so once you’ve got an idea of where they hang out, you’ll need to know more to ace the media planning process. Much more.

Don’t be afraid to ask “why?”. Not just why an audience enjoys a particular media platform, or why they find certain types of content or digital advertising annoying, but the bigger picture.

Look into their lifestyles, attitudes, perceptions, and even aspirations to see what really drives their actions across the various digital channels they use. Here’s a sample of the questions you should be asking when media planning:

  • Personality types: How would they describe themselves?
  • Lifestyle indicators: How do they describe their lifestyle?
  • Self-perceptions: Which attributes do they say they have?
  • Desires: What do they want for themselves in life?
  • Values and opinions: Where do they place their energy and trust?

For Arya Alfieri, Creative Strategist at Kiwi , getting this level of understanding is essentially what drives the success of any marketing plan.

“The data gives us the tools we need to map our consumers’ lives. We can build a real idea of our consumer, and then seek to understand the emotions behind the behavior, self-interests, and purchasing actions.”

Every independent agency is trying to find its ‘edge’ – something that sets it apart from the competition – and what differentiates good digital media plans from great ones is whether or not they have a holistic overview of their target audience.

2. Size up the market with actual numbers

Let’s get to the crux of why market sizing is important and work backward.

The big benefit for any media planner is seeing how many of a client’s target audiences exist in a particular market.

A large part of a media planner’s job is getting accurate estimates for the number of actual humans who will see their advertising campaign – and translating that into predicted revenue. Time to big up ROI.

When you’re relying solely on the audience figures presented to you by an independent media outlet, you’re placing a lot of trust in them. Yes, it might sound like the kind of media your client’s target audience engages with, but, you can’t be totally sure they’re measuring the right metrics, the right audiences, or even using an accurate source.

When you supplement their data with your own independent market analysis, you’re not just quantifying your client’s audience as a whole, you’re able to apply that same audience across multiple media types to find the best options.

And, if you’ve built out your client’s audience in as much detail as you can, you can filter by any age group, gender, and lifestyle to get an accurate media planning figure for that segment.

It’s the kind of flexibility that opens the door for a hyper-targeted ad campaign and improved brand awareness.

3. Dive head-first into the cookieless future

In the cookie-free world we’re entering, the trail of digital breadcrumbs that consumers used to leave is vanishing fast. And it makes sense, consumers wanted it:

Agencies are now challenged with finding workarounds that give them the same level of oversight that cookies provided.

Sounds like bad news for media buyers and planners, but actually, it’s a win-win if you’re willing to invest in robust data to enhance your digital marketing strategy. Here’s why.

Better privacy legislation suits surveys. That’s because they’re fully opt-in, giving you access to the attitudes, behaviors, fears, hopes, preferences, and plans of consumers – all while maintaining the privacy and anonymity of respondents.

With access to the right kind of data collected the right kind of way, agencies can tread the line where their clients can’t measure the impact of their media strategy, make digital advertising more relevant, and, ultimately, maximize the return on their advertising spend.

However, there’s more to keep in mind. As our senior trends manager, Tom Morris, points out: “How you think consumers feel about privacy, and how they really feel about it, are two different things.”

Even though over 40% of consumers worry about their online privacy, only around 1 in 5 say they regularly decline cookies on a website. 

4. Take it up a notch with harmonized data

The way we consume content and our relationships with brands have shifted an awful lot recently – so our customer journeys , and the touchpoints that inform them, have become more fragmented.

Studying each media touchpoint in isolation is too restrictive – instead, it’s safer to view the digital space as an ecosystem, with your audience at the center.

Let’s take sports viewership as an example.

Almost half of the people watching sports games will also be engaging with other media types at the same time.

Watching the game is just part of the whole experience, sparking new messaging and engagement opportunities.

Media planners need to approach media management more holistically.

With a harmonized data set, data on every media channel, medium, and audience is collected and processed using the same methodology. That means it’s all comparable, bringing the grey areas between channels into focus and opening up a new world of cross-channel analysis.

Creative & media agency case study: YW Istanbul

For the Turkey-based creative & media agency YW Istanbul, increasing followers and engagement for food brand Bizim Mutfak on Instagram and Facebook was a top social media marketing priority.

The challenge

Keeping up with rapidly-evolving customer behavior can be tricky.

With a decrease in new followers and current audience interaction, it was important to Digital Media Manager Selin Ergin Acar to develop a media plan and campaign goal that helped the brand capture and create its own community.

Acar explains, “We thought that the brand should create its own community by reaching target audiences online with the most accurate channel, content, and advertising strategy, and while doing this, it should look like an influencer rather than a brand with an Instagram account.”

If the team wanted to scale fast and compete against the bigger agencies out there, they needed to connect the brand with its target audience. That’s where GWI came in.

The action

The type of content that audiences consume on Instagram and Facebook was researched through GWI. This helped YW Istanbul recognize Bizim Muftak’s potential consumers and identify its target audience under 5 main headings:

  • Practicals: Women who don’t have time to cook and are on the lookout for practical solutions.
  • Appearance-focused: Women who care about their appearance and prefer light meals that they can eat at any time of the day.
  • Experiencers: Women who love gourmet delicacies, discovering new tastes, and different presentations.
  • Health-oriented: Women who strive for a healthy life and love making healthy food choices.
  • Locals: Women who prefer traditional Turkish cuisine dishes.

Once they had their audience research process and media plan nailed down, the brand recruited an expert chef to produce traditional recipes that could be made with Bizim Mutfak products. The contents were matched with the interests of the target audience and published on Instagram and Facebook on specific days and times that had the highest interaction potential.

The result

No strangers to leveraging all kinds of data to drive success, the agency made GWI their focal point for everything audience-related, which led to an immediate surge in followers and engagement.

With the correct use of data, customized content, and advertising strategy, Bizim Mutfak was able to increase the number of unique Instagram profile views from 955 to an incredible 19K, and increased the number of monthly post interactions from 324 to 25K.

The number of users the Bizim Mutfak Instagram account reached rose from 152K to 1M. There was also a net increase of 1,500 followers, putting the brand at an awesome 32,172 followers.

Digital media planning is finding its footing

With all the challenges facing today’s media planners, one cornerstone rule should stay top of mind: keep consumer interests at the core.

The world of digital advertising has to move with consumers – and consumers move fast.

Monitor their new behaviors, spot the relationships between media channels, and also look deeper into the key attitudes and perceptions that drive the decision to watch, engage and purchase.

Media planning tools should be designed to cut through the growing noise and clutter of the online world. And with the right data at your side, the answers you need to do just that aren’t far away.

For agencies like WeAreSocial, Kiwi, and YW Istanbul, market survey data gives them a level of clarity and security over their audience and channel research that first-party data can’t. It allows them to produce better results, and because they’re on the sharp edge of technology and legislation, they’re indispensable to their clients.

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