Each month until the end of the year, this series will guide you through performance planning and budget optimisation.
When it comes to media planning, historical performance data is often the most helpful reference point we have. In fact, it’s not uncommon for businesses to simply up or down weight previous year’s plans by a certain percentage in line with available budget in order to create their ‘new’ media plan. Brands have been able to use this data pretty reliably year on year, with little disruption to performance or user behaviour trends.
If you’ve been involved in 2022 media planning (or in fact 2020 – 2021 media buying), you may have recognised the rather heightened level of ‘what on earth is going on?’. Well here’s a bit of what’s happening:
- Usual seasonal trends have slumped in the wake of lockdowns leading to decreased certainty of demand month to month
- Buying habits have been overthrown with a refreshed preference for online shopping, as well as widespread financial concerns following furlough and work-from-home mandates
- Many brands pulled at least some of their media spend when the proverbial hit the fan with the pandemic, which would have additionally disrupted expected trends.
- Businesses within industries such as travel, hospitality, and the arts have been hit especially hard from Covid bans on travel, gatherings, and events.
All over media-land, you can hear the same questions ringing through the Zoom calls; “What’s going to happen?”, “When will we see bookings pick up again?”, and of course that horribly Orwellian pondering of whether this is the ‘new normal’.
The honest answer is that no one really knows.
Does that mean you should pull your media spend and go hide in a meeting room until it’s all blown over? Absolutely not. It simply means we need to revise our mindset and approach and find out for ourselves.
Each month until the end of the year, this series will guide you through performance planning and budget optimisation; how to plot your data, how to review the performance, and how to make informed media investment decisions, without the benefit of stable historical data.
Some months there may be recommended actions for you to take, but don’t worry, we’re starting off easy as we have only minimal performance data for 2022 so far.
The first thing you’ll need is a table that looks like this. I’ll be referring to this as a ‘phasing table’. (You’ll copy and complete this table each month so keep it somewhere easily accessible.)
In the ‘channel’ column, you’ll list the media channels or platforms you’re investing in. You’ll need these rows to reflect how granularly you’ve split your budget and targets. For example, your first column could look like any one of these, depending on how you’ve planned your activity:
All you need to do for this month is fill out the ‘planned’ columns in the table with the conversion volume (be this sales, bookings, enquiries etc), your estimated cost per conversion, and the budget you were planning to spend in that area.
Your table should look something like this when you’re done:
Each month this data will be reviewed against the ‘actuals’, taking various factors into account to ascertain how your media is performing against your plan. At the end of each quarter we’ll re-plan, shifting budget away from under-performing channels and revising projections, whether for your records or stakeholder reporting.
A few pointers for getting started:
- This method will work for any media activity with a CPA attached. You may however decide to keep mass reach channels such as TV or OOH in the table purely for reference as these investments are less flexible.
- If you are not running the campaigns personally, make sure to get the media buyers involved (be it in-house, or at an agency). They will have valuable context and often a ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to their channels.
- While we have target CPAs, these are not necessarily the maximum CPA we can reach whilst still turning a profit. It’s important to make sure your CPA estimates work fiscally as well as within your media plan (E.g. If you pay £60 through social media to receive a conversion, are you still making a profit? If you record a CPA of £60 but the user has purchased one item from you which retails at £13.99, this is not commercially viable).
See you next month, when we’ll be recording performance to date and taking early insights from the data to inform the rest of Q1.
By Director of Search Niki Grant, as featured in Mediatel.