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Digital media planning must be reactive if you are to weather the pandemic

Strategy By: Maria OstbergOct 2, 2020

Maria_Ostberg_squareOur Account Director, Maria Ostberg, writes about how brands can better engage customers by embracing short-term digital media planning based on insight from data. 

In marketing, we have always been fixated on the idea of planning down to a tee, following frameworks, defining roles and responsibilities, ways of working, timelines and checklists. And that has its place, but Covid-19 has undoubtedly opened our eyes, and those of our clients, to being compassionate to colleagues, whilst being flexible and resourceful when planning, buying and reporting. As the social restrictions begin to stiffen again in many countries, it’s apparent the demand for these changes is not going away. Brands need to evolve towards a more efficient marketing model, which operates in tandem with data-led planning and buying. 

It's good to have a monthly or quarterly plan, but during turbulent times those plans will read and perform better if they are responsive to trends. From clapping key workers, sourdough bread baking and zoom quizzes, to staycations and abortive attempts to get back to normal. This level of reactivity in planning, in combination with programmatic’s non-committal and flexible buying structure, allows for you to capitalise on your brand and your marketing activity.

Data-driven planning

In planning, review and challenge last week's ideas this week - weight up the options on resource and timing vs your ability to be reactive to emerging trends. And most importantly prioritise.

Just as trends come and go, so do audiences. We went from a nation of millions of commuters listening to motivational podcasts every day on their way into work and popping into Pret to pick up their extra-hot-coconut-flat-white, to people sleeping in as long as possible, letting their porridge overflow in the microwave, and sleepily dialling in (still in pyjamas) onto their first video call of the day. Suffice to say, our needs, necessities and priorities have changed and therefore, so have brands' audiences. Last week your audience might have been Jane, 26 years old, loves music and spends 2 hrs a day on Instagram, this week it might be more of an Esther, 37, who has picked up doing yoga via Youtube videos.

Acknowledge old audiences and their needs, but also consider new ones and how you can reach them efficiently on the right channels. Leverage your first party data and the real-time data made available on buying platforms to validate the channels and data sets used to reach these audiences. Additionally, to allow for agile planning (and re-planning), consider handing over the reins to people closer to the day-to-day activity to let them make the final call to achieve quicker turn arounds when it comes to audiences and strategies.

A new way of operating

As for activation, running always-on activity creates stability in terms of allowing algorithms to have a strong base of 'good' data points and 'bad' data points, whilst constantly ingesting new data to continue topping up that base knowledge. Therefore, you should aim for 80% of stable activity, and 20% for reactive and testing activity. This makes it much easier to change creatives, add new copy, or extend your targeting, as you’re not looking at that 7-14 day learning period across your whole media investment, just 20% of it. There may be peaks and troughs in performance, but that foundation of data laid long ago pads out these peaks and troughs.

This is the first time we as individuals, but also many brands, have been exposed to such rapid changes in consumer behaviour. It's near impossible to predict what the next trend will be, but the best thing about data driven advertising is that we don’t need to do the predicting, we simply let the data guide us. Being reactive still means having to set targets and KPI's, but where do you set the benchmark when you don't have a similar scenario or set-up, to compare to?

Working off A/B testing with that 20% of your budget means you will always have learnings. The performance of one of the tests will outweigh the other, so helping you set the benchmark of what good looks like during this time. Ultimately, the feedback loop of this data between agency, brand, platforms and teams, becomes a key ingredient to determine in which direction you want to point your reactivity and advertising budgets.

When it comes to activating campaigns, how many times have you had delays because the creatives aren't ready? Sometimes it’s a matter of days, but most times, weeks. The pandemic has really sparked creativity and resourcefulness (watch out creative agencies and top models). In many cases user generated content, and at home photoshoots have become the norm, and if anything, it has allowed consumers to level with the brand and their content even more!

Take a step back

Lastly, and to go full circle, all this newness in terms of planning and activating is also generating a lot of new data. But this data is only as good as the person analysing it and making actionable recommendations for the next steps based on findings. The newness of operating and set up might even be a shock to the algorithms. Although they do a great job, take time to validate the data and understand the automated optimisations taking place behind the scenes, to help the next stage of planning and activation.

Recently we have made the effort to be considerate of our clients’ teams, as they may be trying to manage with increased workload. It's our goal to be an extension of those teams, to help them become more flexible, resourceful and reactive during these times. Because it is in this way that they better service their customers and build new audiences.

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