The golden rules of media planning that marketers must be considering

With the news that global ad spend growth is predicted to slow in 2018, it’s clear to see that the impact of transparency concerns are continuing to rise. This trend is being driven, in part, by the efforts of global brands calling for further accountability in digital.

From P&G’s Q2 2017 earnings report – which detailed how slashing millions in ad budgets didn’t impact its bottom line – to Unilever’s stark warning to social platforms that ‘breed division’ in society, it is evident that a focus on media quality and building a trustworthy ecosystem are to be key themes for the year ahead.

While this focus on media quality is undeniably a positive step towards a new phase of transparent and accountable media buying, planning decisions are still yet to be based on the three essential pillars of ad quality: for advertising to be viewable, brand safe and fraud-free.

So what understanding is there of the connection between the three pillars themselves and what they really mean for advertising efficiency? To maximise the value of every impression, marketers need a full picture before they part with their budgets. And to do that they must ensure planning is based on a holistic and unbiased view of inventory that shows the true impact of all factors on ROI.

To make sure advertising reaches the next stage of efficiency, marketers will need to consider the following golden rules of media planning:

Understand the impact each ad makes

A clear understanding of viewability, brand safety risk, and ad fraud levels is vital for effective media planning; how else can brands ensure ads are fraud-free, brand safe, and viewable? However, using these metrics in isolation makes the impact hard to define. For instance, two impressions may be deemed viewable, yet one might only just meet the Media Rating Council (MRC) standard of being 50% in view for at least one second, while the other achieves 70% in view. Should you assume the more viewable ad will be a better buy? With both ads priced equally and ticking the viewability box, the difference in performance can be obscured.

This scenario has parallels with the financial sector ahead of the crisis in 2008, where products of differing value were often bundled together with no precise insight into their individual quality. As a result, the industry was hampered by ambiguities that have taken nearly a decade to resolve. Only by assigning a true value to products – or in our case ad inventory – can we address the problem.

Secure a brand-safe environment

It goes without saying that after recent brand safety infractions, industry awareness around media transparency is at an all time high; as is brand determination to make sure ad placements are secure. Consequently, buyer demand for verification of their media quality is rising. Yet so far, increasing fragmentation across data, marketing channels, walled gardens, and devices has meant accurate media analysis is no easy task.

Introduce independent analysis

It’s becoming apparent that what brands need is their own version of an impartial financial advisor – think an independent media advisor, who can highlight where savings can be made and how campaigns can be adjusted to achieve efficiency across the board. Only by assessing the ad’s value against key metrics and understanding the combined effect viewability, brand safety and fraud rates have on impression efficacy can planners make informed decisions about which impressions to invest in, and when to reduce spend that doesn’t boost the bottom line.

Set a clear, objective baseline

It’s frequently noted that the ever increasing amount of data available is making it difficult to gain the insight needed to power successful marketing, including media planning. To purchase ad placements that match campaigns with the target audiences, planners not only need vast processing capacity, but also a baseline to work from to track key objectives.

Take, mobile for instance – it may absorb four out of 10 digital ad dollars globally, but only 24% of media buyers are currently using third-party verification providers to check the data they base purchasing decisions on. That’s a large disparity between investment and knowledge. Though it must be recognised that the number of buyers due to engage third-party verification is due to rise by 45% next year, there is a clear argument for the brands investing substantial parts of their budgets in mobile to seek means of accessing authenticated data. By using independent verification, brands can be sure mobile inventory is carefully analysed before deals are struck – ensuring budgets are focused on fraud-free, effective ads that are aligned with brand messaging.

So how can independent verification actually help planners?

This additional insight verification companies can offer is also advantageous for targeting. With a full picture of where ads are placed and how impactful they are likely to be, planners can formulate precise strategies as to where ad space is purchased to maximise relevance, connect cross-channel campaigns, and optimise ROI.

Ultimately, the main goal media planners must achieve to reach the next stage of efficiency is clarity. Only with a full view of each impression that takes the pillars of viewability, brand safety, and fraud protection into account can they build media plans that meet their targets and use budgets most effectively. And to gain this all-inclusive picture, they must work to build a transparent, accountable ecosystem – starting with independent advice, and verification.

Nick Morley is EMEA managing director at Integral Ad Science

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