Super Bowl LVI has come and gone – and the armchair media analysts have all returned to their day jobs. But for true marketing professionals, our work continues beyond Super Bowl weekend. We’re in an industry that’s booming. Global ad spending is predicted to reach $850 billion by the end of 2024. With media spend making up one of the largest components of marketing budgets, it’s imperative marketers have a media strategy that can adequately respond when the CMO says, “we need a digital media strategy!” or when the CFO says, “we need to understand ROI on media spend,” and especially when the CEO says, “my kid is on TikTok, why aren’t we?”
To answer our clients, we need to move away from focusing on media tactics – chasing clicks, chasing trends, trying to find audiences that respond to the marketing message. Why? Because audiences, don’t really care. They go where they get the information/entertainment/experiences they crave, and smart companies know that a media strategy is required to reach them at the right time and in the right place.
So how do you know if your media agency is going to give you a strategy and maximize the return on your investment? Here are two key questions to ask and the answers you want.
How Will They Choose Channels?
This simple question can quickly help a client understand the thinking of the agency, and the chance for success. Some agencies specialize in certain channels, such as paid social or programmatic, and their recommendations tend to be heavily loaded with the channels they know best. Other agencies chase the newest channels or gravitate to only one part of the customer journey and it’s often the earliest “awareness” phase or the final “decision” phase.
The truth is that a sound media strategy is rooted in an understanding of the full audience journey and recommends the right media channels for each. Knowing that the broad brush of awareness tends to take more total dollars – but should also be tightly coupled with earned media efforts – helps drive budget allocation. Likewise, decision stage media can be more highly targeted and yield better metrics.
Choosing channels also mean navigating the often-mystifying ecosystem of specialty providers in areas like Connected TV or CTV, where every company claims they are the leaders in placing your ad right in front of your target. Recently, we brought this to life for a client by identifying a partner, FreeWheel, that allowed them to buy the targeted TV coverage they desired without being locked into non-cancellable contracts associated with scatter inventory. A strategic media agency knows how to vet these partners and find the right fit to achieve marketing goals.
How Will They Report Results?
One of the greatest challenges of marketing today is connecting spend to results. Across the landscape, from B2C to B2B and in start-ups and established brands, there is a belief that since digital allows everything to be measured, reporting will provide perfect insights into performance. This belief, unfortunately, is a myth.
The reality of measurement and reporting is that a varied media strategy, as described above, requires multiple types of measures and considerable expertise in turning those metrics into insights. The best media agencies today work with a variety of research and measurement partners to find the metrics that make sense for the client and the campaign. In the digital ecosystem, everything is evolving rapidly, from the data available to the impact of privacy regulations, so media agencies must regularly update their reporting and interpretation.
In many sectors, the best media reporting still ends when a customer clicks on the website and then internal marketing systems take over. The key to winning here is finding an agency that wants to partner with internal client teams to build integrated reporting, from first impression to final sale. This requires a commitment to transparency by both parties and a dedication to building a client/agency relationship that is more than transactional.
For one of our B2B clients, we combined our reporting on SEM activities (Google, Bing) and website data (Google Analytics) with sales funnel data (Salesforce) provided by the client to show an end-to-end customer journey. This helped to identify the keywords that drove sales instead of just driving site visits.
Media Is More Than Buying
The upshot of all this is that today the best media agencies do far more than simply buy. They serve as guides and navigators to a rapidly changing landscape of options and even more rapidly changing consumer behaviors. They work to connect the ever-widening stream of data available to the actual business results demanded by clients. The best media agencies must be one part financial advisor, helping clients maximize the return on their investments; one part media guru, staying closely connected to emerging trends, but never losing sight of the power of classic channels; and one part Indy racing pit crew, being able to respond to a dynamic environment and install whole new systems without losing hard-earned competitive positioning.
When it is time to choose between TikTok, OTT, or the Super Bowl, the smartest media agencies will help make the choice blindingly clear.
Norbella is an independent media agency that partners with brands to grow businesses by combining insights with media intelligence to expertly craft custom media campaigns that delivers ROI. Founded in 2009, and proudly independent and woman-owned, the agency has current clients that span technology, consumer, and healthcare, including: athenahealth, BCBS of Rhode Island, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Carbonite, Cybereason, DECU, Devo, EG America, Massachusetts Lottery, and Toast.