By Simi Gill, Senior Digital Account Director
I can’t quite believe I’m writing this already, but here we are again, the start of another Q4 despite it feeling like 2023 only just started a few months ago! Q4 is always an exciting and busy time in the world of marketing. This time is usually the peak period for most brands across the spectrum from FMCG to charities, which, of course, comes with hard targets that must be met – so naturally, there is a lot of pressure on the next few months. With this, we know that brands do not always operate solely on a topline organisational target – there are often multiple product teams that each have their own targets. Therefore, we are essentially required to treat these separate divisions as individual clients despite being under a singular brand entity.
As strategic planners, we know it’s important to ensure we prioritise campaigns for clients efficiently during these crucial seasonal times so as to avoid being live in the market with too many varying comms and overlapping the same audiences with multiple asks. As the IAB notes, one of the biggest complaints of internet users is the repetition or obtrusiveness of advertising, so advertisers must be careful not to slip into the territory of campaign bombardment. Research from Credos found that respondents were very explicit that advertising has become significantly more inescapable and noisier, causing them frustration with the brands behind the ads, and repetition was explicitly linked to ad avoidance and even blocking. This bombardment, therefore, ultimately results in wasted media spend – an outcome that no advertiser wants to hear.
At The Kite Factory, we have used best practices and evidence to develop a Comms Planning Prioritisation Framework, which is one way to improve how campaigns are planned and prioritised in prep for these peak yearly periods. The framework exists to ensure we are saying the right thing to the right people at the right time and that marketing activities are delivering the most impact for our clients. There are three key elements to creating and implementing a Prioritisation Framework:
- Creating a set of guidelines or rules about the number and range of different campaigns/products we can market at any one time.
- Creating a set of measurable criteria that allows us to select and prioritise.
- An agreement across internal product teams that the prioritisation will be actioned if the criteria are met.
To achieve point 1, we approach this by creating a tiered structure that allows us to identify where in the framework each campaign sits:
- Tier 1 – these are the priority hero campaigns. These are relevant to most or all of our audiences and are the priority across all relevant channels. There should ideally only be one tier 1 campaign live at any single time (and assessing this on a broader scale, a maximum of 3-4 per year).
- Tier 2 – these campaigns are the secondary priority for our audiences and channels. Again, only one tier 2 campaign should be live at any single time (and to clarify, this can be alongside a tier 1). We should look for opportunities to align messaging with the tier 1 campaign (if live concurrently and it’s appropriate to do so).
- Tier 3 – these campaigns are typically smaller in scale. They will have more niche ringfenced audiences, and therefore, overlap with tier 1/2 activities (and amongst other tier 3 ranked campaigns) is likely minimal. A higher frequency of tier 3 campaigns may be live, and again this can be alongside the upper two tiers.
But to get here, we must do point 2, which involves scoring four key ‘impact score’ criteria to determine where in the above tier structure various products/campaigns should sit:
- Financial – does it have the potential to generate significant income?
- Reach – does it have the potential to reach a significant proportion of our target audience?
- Strategic impact – how significant is the impact on the organisation’s strategic objectives? Does it contribute to the overall business goals?
- Timely / relevance – how relevant is it to our key audiences? Is it a case of now or never?
Now, it’s simply a case of listing out our desired marketing campaigns for the period and marking them against our four impact score criteria. Each organisation can vary how these are scored, i.e., Financial can be scored from 0 – 5 based on listed income opportunities a campaign could drive (from 0, not driven by financial incentive, to 5, increased income over a year by £1M+). The strategic impact can be scored from 0 – 5 based on our own assessment of its relevance (from 0, not related to organisational priorities at all, to 5, directly enables organisational priorities).
Once we have done this scoring exercise for the products/campaigns and totalled up our impact scores for each, we determine the size/effort of implementing the campaigns. Will this be small (1), medium (1.25), or large (1.5)? Our campaign prioritisation score is, therefore, a simple formula: our total impact score divided by our size/effort score for that individual campaign. We can then list all products/campaigns in order of highest to lowest, and thus, we have our Prioritisation Framework. Beyond just peak periods such as Q4, this Prioritisation Framework approach is relevant in other conditions that may occur throughout the year that indicate a need to assess how much marketing comms we have so the results can be applied at any given trigger (such as periods of limited budgets or team resource capacities, when competitor spends are high, or at times of relevant external events/news).
Whilst this approach to marketing comms calendar planning is ideal, we do acknowledge it is not always possible to enforce such a framework, as there is sometimes just the need to be in the market with all products (especially during Q4). Therefore, in these scenarios, we need to think about how to efficiently plan to accommodate this by holistically approaching all live briefs. The key considerations to prep for this are:
- Audience mapping is the crucial first step here – listing out all expected live campaigns with their corresponding audiences will help us quickly identify where there is a risk of too much overlap and where audience efforts should be prioritised. For example, warm retargeting, high conversion intent audiences are likely to be prioritised in a tier 1 campaign (one expected to drive the most income) vs a tier 3 (a more niche campaign with perhaps no financial ask). And if we do have the same audiences across multiple products, we must plan a suitable frequency within each and then across all, as if this was one campaign frequency.
- Channel/platform mapping – once desired audiences have been identified, this informs where the marketing budget will be invested and the opportunity to spot if we are pushing too much into one touchpoint at one time. This also helps us identify and mitigate any risk in advance of cannibalising or over-inflating ourselves in the platform in terms of our own buy rate efficiencies. Again, frequency cap planning helps assert control here if the requirement is for the same channel/platform.
- Timing – even with the requirement of multiple product campaigns during a certain peak season, how can we phase activations suitably to avoid like-for-like live dates? Can we instead rank and prioritise campaign timing within this period itself, without the need to completely write them off?
- Resource – from a practical point of view, ensuring that teams on both sides are able to accommodate the number of campaigns due to be in market at the same time. Are we organised from an asset creation, tracking requirement and general set-up point of view, and can the client side manage multiple ongoing customer journeys (if relevant)?
We know Q4 is a chaotic time for all parties involved in the world of marketing, and we completely appreciate the pressure that internal client teams are under to achieve individual targets during this very cluttered, highly competitive time. As strategic planners, we will always be advising how we can do this most efficiently without jeopardising the performance of one campaign for the sake of another, with this thinking fuelled by the thought process outlined above. The Framework is, of course, a collaborative effort between media agency and client teams and both parties should agree upon the final structure. Running this type of exercise is of most value when receiving annual budgets so that we have a clear plan far ahead of periods that may trigger the need for one, and it can be reviewed continuously. If you’re keen to see what this could look like for your own Digital marketing calendar year, reach out to your Digital Account Director to get started!