Media Selection Process
Understanding The Market
To determine which medium we should use to advertise our product we must first understand our target market–so we make the correct media selection. This includes the following:
- Knowing who they are. Are they consumers (all consumers (TurboTax, Quicken or Dell), or just select consumers (teenage to 35-year-old gamers (Sony Playstation)), Fortune 100, small business, etc. If they are all consumers or a large part of the population, we can use mass-market media such as network TV, radio or general publications (weekly newspaper). If they are Fortune 100 or small business we might use specific trade publications that target our same markets.
- Their buying process. Is the sale simple (a package of gum that is an instant decision), or complex–requiring numerous complex presentations and layers of approvals (educational or government sales).
- Who are the final decision-makers, along with the primary and secondary influencers? For example, for a sales force automation decision, the final say maybe the VP of Sales. However, the primary influencers maybe the salespeople and sales managers (who have to use it every day), plus the IT department (who has to support it). The secondary influencers may be the president (who wants more sales), the CFO (who has to finance it), and the secretary (who has to enter weekly leads).
The percentage weight of influence of each person in the decision chain helps determine which medium and publications we may target. The VP of Sales may travel (so American Airlines magazine may work well). The Regional Sales Manager may be trying to move up (so Success Magazine may work). The IT department may need integration support (so CRM magazine may work), etc.
I typically create a matrix showing the key decision and influencers within the market and have the most market–knowledgeable internal team members (product managers, sales managers, PR, etc.) come to a consensus as to which percentage weight we should assign to each group. This process is subjective, but usually yields fairly accurate results–when the numbers come in.
- Where they buy. If the target buys from retail, we may use “Run of Press” ads (co-op ads with the retailers). If the target buys from VARs or Integrators, we may use VARBusiness to recruit more VARs (who in turn may use direct response mail to reach the targets). If they buy on-line–we may run direct response ads with an on-line or 800# call to action.
- How they buy. If the customer buys on terms, our ads may mention financing options (cars, delayed payment).
- What the competition is doing. We might use services such as AdScope (can’t find them anymore) to compile a 12-month history of our competitor’s campaigns so we can see their media targets and either apply a blocking campaign, were we match (and counter) a competitor’s campaign, or use a separatist campaign, where we fish in a different pond entirely (assuming we know the market better than they do–which should be the case). Or we may choose to do some of both.
- What has worked for us in the past (which media and ad format generated the most revenue?). This is one of the most difficult steps since most companies do not capture this information. If nothing is in place, then you must extrapolate the data from whatever sources you have. You must also fix this problem immediately and set up a complete tracking system–or you will not have the managerial information you need to determine which medium is working best (TV, Radio, Publications (and which of the publications is working best)–i.e., are you fishing in the right pond, nor will you know which ad format and message is working best (do you have the right bait). See the later section within advertising on Tracking & ROI to see how to set this up.
Understanding your customers and being able to answer each of the previous questions is the hard part. Finding media that targets our same prospect is actually the easy part.
Selecting The Correct Media (Media Selection)
The next step is to determine which medium type (TV, Radio, Display Ads) will reach your desired targets and generate the greatest ROI. It may be multiple types–if so, you should put a % weight value on each and consider your budget and media selection accordingly.
In the high-tech market (aside from consumer electronics (PlayStations, Dell, etc.)), the most widely used advertising medium is print. Within the print medium, the most common for high-tech is trade publications (rather than the general business and consumer publications like Newsweek, Fortune, Popular Mechanics, Southern Living, etc.). Trade publications might include PC Magazine (general market), Network Computing (corporate networking), Videomaker (highly vertical video market), Gaming (obvious), etc.
The key is to find the right publication (the pond) that contains most of your preferred target (type of fish).
Fortunately, there are several publications that can help you determine the demographics of various media and publications for the best media selection. For example, the Nielson Rating can tell you the audience demographics and ratings for specific network and cable stations and specific television shows. Other services like those from IAG Research (now part of Nielson) can measure the performance of every ad. However, they often only measure recall within the channel, by brand, and the fit (how well it was integrated into the show). Based on these criteria, they rate as “most effective” those ads (brands) that are recalled by most people. However, a more important indicator is not the recall scores, but the ads that actually sell and cause a change in brand preference.
You can find a fairly comprehensive on-line listing of TV, radio, newspapers, on-line, and trade magazines at Media Post. Registration is free and they even include a free on-line media scheduling tool.
If you are moving into a new market and don’t know the most popular trade publications, then you will have to use media books (Bacon’s is again helpful), internet resources, get help from alliances, and clients (ask what they read), or from a media buying company. If you are fairly certain of the publications you want to use, you can go to their web site (or call for a media kit) and get rates, demographics, circulation, frequency, etc.
If you talk to a rep, be cautious not to place too much merit when they say they cater to your market (I’ve had some sales reps try to sell me placement in a publication that was clearly not aimed at my target). The Editor in Chief understands the publication’s target best since he/she must create content to appeal to that audience. This is one of the reason’s I usually get PRs assistance in the media selection–they know who covers your space by the type and number of articles produced for your desired target. The PR group also has the editorial schedule that helps identify the target audience.