Don Draper is considered by many to be an iconic personality of the advertising world. Although fictional, the Draper name is synonymous with other well-known advertising titans such as Ogilvy, McCann, Saatchi and others.

One could have thought these “big idea” creative guys are the driving force of the advertising world. Looking at big holding companies and their merger and acquisition track record seems to back this notion, as holding companies acquire mainly creative agencies.

Think of what happened last May, when the big four bought more than 13 companies, none of them being media companies and you will get the big picture.

Media Agencies vs. Creative Agencies

Things seem a bit different when you take a more profound look at the media landscape. The surprising reality is that media agencies, not the creative agencies, are the real driving force of the advertising world.

How dominant are they? Take WPP for example, whose yearly report presents media as 70 percent of the group revenues. Characters like Mad Men’s Harry Crane and the late Erwin Ephron in real life are the true drivers of the ad world, they generate the majority of earnings for the holding companies.

The lack of general public interest in media planning leads to the fact that it is the least invested advertising discipline both in attention and in creativity while technology and profit wise it should have been the spearhead of the advertising world.

Insourcing Media Activity

We are now seeing an increased movement towards insourcing of media activity within the big brands. P&G, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser and others have already insourced large parts of their media buying function, if not the entirety of it.

This trend presents a threat to the advertising holding companies as the majority of their revenue is media, losing media income could actually mean losing the industry and their media revenues are already dropping as a result.

What happened?

While the majority of interest in online video advertising focused on creating new types of ad creatives or developing a belief in the viral ad campaign strategy, the media market presented the biggest technology revolution – programmatic advertising.

Innovation in Media Planning  

Creative innovation is clear — making the ads edgier, or dare I say “viral,” using VR technology or by using influencers, etc. However, what does innovation in media planning look like?

The basic premise of media planning is finding the right audience for your campaign. In the TV world, you analyzed a demo’s rating point and targeted the show that presented your target audience. As shelf space was limited and pricing was high, campaigns typically spike on specific days for select target audiences, albeit with a great deal of waste.

But that’s changing. Programmatic enables us to create new media buying models.

It is understood that a person is most affected by an ad when it is relevant. If I am researching and planning to buy a car next week, I will be most interested and influenced by a car ad within this specific week.

The challenge with it is that it is almost impossible to know when I plan to buy a car, or even more challenging is when I am planning to buy my toothpaste, as an example.

Learning Opportunities

Managing a single campaign throughout the year is too expensive and surely not realistic.

Buying good audiences (“high demo”) is usually related to buying prime time shows that are even more expensive.

As an alternative, advertisers apply heuristic targeting, surmising that women shop more than men, and then targeting moms, and then selecting a Friday, the day before a weekend. So let’s target women age 30 to 45 on a Thursday instead of maintaining a weekly campaign targeted to broader audiences. Aside from being stereotypical and likely sexist, it is simply not accurate.

The Reach of Programmatic

Programmatic enables us to reach our target audience across a variety of relevant sites. High demo audiences will be in “prime time” equivalent sites (comScore top 10) but also in more standard sites (comScore 1000), something we didn’t have on TV.

On these sites we can control the pricing level of the ad (it could be via a small player which is cheap or a big player which is more expensive), again an option we didn’t have previously on TV.

If I choose the small player option (usually 75 percent cheaper) I can run a yearly campaign and catch my target audience precisely in their decision moment, or in media planning terms — create a true recency campaign.

This marks a huge transformation in the way we plan and buy media, we do not need to guess, we can finally deliver.

Media Related Innovation

Most of the money spent in advertising is media money. Most of the innovation and acquisitions in advertising are creative driven.

Media related innovation can dramatically increase the effectiveness and reduce the cost of the campaign making the return of marketing investment (“ROMI”) much higher.

So it seems the time has come to give media planners their well deserved place in the spotlight. It is now Harry Crane’s time to shine.

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