How to Build an Impactful Media Plan

How to Build an Impactful Media Plan

By Staff Writer
In October 1, 2013

I have spent 34 years planning and buying media for scores of advertisers, and I can tell you that there is no easy answer on how to build the best media plan. However, there is one golden rule that I live by when initiating a plan for a client: Do each step of the plan the best you can before advancing to the next.

1. Define Objectives and Target Audience

Conduct your research thoroughly, and discuss it with the client and account services (as well as anyone else participating on the agency team). Ensure that everyone is in agreement on the basics before starting your media plan. Trust me when I say that there is nothing more frustrating than having to completely change direction halfway through a plan due to a miscommunicated goal or target. Establish Media Objectives

Make sure you define the target audience as completely as possible (who is the audience as defined demographically by age/sex, where is the target geographically, do you have any research psychographics on how they think and what they like and how they consume today’s media).

Consider the scheduling and seasonality when laying out the plan. You want to make certain to have the timing of your plan correct based on the product sales parameters or service date considerations.

And always ask is there a specific metric you need to attain? Whether it is reach and frequency, CPP/CPM/ROI or promotional requirements, it is important to understand upfront how your plan will be judged.

2. Develop Media Strategies

Now that you have your media plan objectives and target audience defined, you need to develop a strategy for each objective. For example, I had two different clients who were both national in scope and one of their media objectives was to reach women aged 25–54 throughout the year. The strategy was to utilize network television since research showed the prospective target was best reached via this medium. American Greetings and Ohio Mattress (Sealy and Stearns & Foster) were both slated to focus on network television in their individual plans.

3. Media Tactics

Now you have to show the details of how to implement your strategies. What media types do I use to execute my strategies and how do I best use each for the client (all while staying within budget)?

Explore the strengths and weaknesses of the various media types. You can read about these pros and cons in my previous blog, “Media Planning 101: How To Choose Which Ones To Use?

You can maximize your media plan’s impact by making sure each medium is utilized at an effective level before augmenting your plan with another medium. Within each media type, ensure that every vendor is at a minimum level before adding another. For example, establish that your buyer knows that each radio station meets a 3x minimum frequency before adding another station. If you are working with magazines, plan that each publication obtains a minimum frequency so that it is noticed and impacts the reader before including another publication. And so on with digital media, newspaper, outdoor, etc.

And don’t be afraid to think outside the proverbial box. Remember the aforementioned American Greetings client, they agreed to be on TV — but did not want to spend funds to create a :30 spot. So our tactic was to find an outlet related to card-giving (such as birthdays, anniversaries, et al) that would reach females and not require an actual :30 TV spot. The answer became a ground-breaking deal with “Entertainment Tonight,” whose celebrity birthdays were sponsored by the American Greetings Birthday Bear. It was a five-day a week, full season with the animated AG bear ushering in the celebrity birthdays. Kudos to the late Marc Wyse, who opened all the doors to the show producers to make this a reality and allow me to negotiate.

As for Ohio Mattress, my tactic was to dominate early morning. We could do a full network plan using both “Good Morning America” and “Today Show” flighted throughout the year within a limited budget. They so dominated the daypart that they become one of the top 10 morning advertisers. Sales were successful the brand appeared to be larger than life — and all within a small budget. It worked because we saturated one medium thoroughly.

Remember the saying, “Do it well or not at all”? That is the key to media planning. If you cannot implement an effective media plan within a certain medium, then save the money rather than do an inadequate job of reaching your target. For example, in a past life, there was a local client who manufactured nationally known hair care products. He wanted to be everywhere all the time. Against recommendations, he took a shotgun approach on his own with a little bit here and a smidgeon there — but not enough to make a difference in any one medium. When sales went south, his kneejerk reaction was to cancel everything and throw up his hands saying advertising doesn’t work. It DOES work, if done correctly. He is now gone and that company is doing well.

Do you have any golden rules for creating an impactful media plan that you would like to share? Do you need help creating that media plan? If so, please feel free to comment or directly e-mail me at

Staff Writer

So who is this mysterious staff writer? Could be anyone really, as long as they meet our very strict criteria. 1) Worked with us in one capacity or another. 2) Have something pretty interesting to say. 3) Want to use our blog to say it. See? Told ya they were strict!