Media planning is generally outsourced to a media agency and entails sourcing and selecting optimal media platforms for a client's brand or product to use. The job of media planning is to determine the best combination of media to achieve the marketing campaign objectives.
In the process of planning, the media planner needs to answer questions such as:
- How many of the audience can be reached through the various media?
- On which media (and ad vehicles) should the ads be placed?
- How frequent should the ads be placed?
- How much money should be spent in each medium?
Choosing which media or type of advertising to use can be especially challenging for small firms with limited budgets and know-how. Large-market television and newspapers are often too expensive for a company that services only a small area (although local newspapers can be used). Magazines, unless local, usually cover too much territory to be cost-efficient for a small firm, although some national publications offer regional or city editions.
Components of a media plan
- Define the marketing problem. Where is the business coming from and where is the potential for increased business? Does the ad need to reach everybody or only a select group of consumers? How often is the product used? How much product loyalty exists? How to build awareness or drive consideration through use of optimized contextual based material?
- Translate the marketing requirements into media objectives. Must the ad reach people in a wide area? Then mass media, like newspaper and radio, might work. If the target market is a select group in a defined geographic area, then direct mail could be best.
- Define a media solution by formulating media strategies. For example, the rule of thumb is that a print ad must run three times before it gets noticed. Radio advertising is most effective when run at certain times of the day or around certain programs, depending on what market is being reached.
Media planning's major steps include:
- 1 - Targeting,
- 2 - Environmental scan,
- 3 - Understanding the audience,
- 4 - Determination of content,
- 5 - Control.
Advertising media includes
- Social (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)
- Television ( TVC, television commercial)
- Radio (AM, FM, XM, Pandora, Spotify)
- Magazines (consumer and trade)
- Outdoor billboards
- Ambient experiential
- Public transportation
- Direct Media (DM)
- Digital advertising (such as web-based, mobile and mobile applications)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM, keyword marketing in search engines)
- Specialty advertising (on items such as matchbooks, pencils, calendars, telephone pads, shopping bags and so on)
- Other media (catalogs, samples, handouts, brochures, newsletters and so on)
Factors to consider when comparing various advertising media
- Reach - expressed as a percentage, reach is the number of individuals (or homes) to expose the product to through media scheduled over a period of time.
- Frequency - using specific media, how many times, on average, should the individuals in the target audience be exposed to the advertising message? It takes an average of three or more exposures to an advertising message before consumers take action.
- Cost per thousand - How much will it cost to reach a thousand prospective customers (a method used in comparing print media)? To determine a publication's cost per thousand, also known as CPM, divide the cost of the advertising by the publication's circulation in thousands.
- Cost per point - how much will it cost to buy one rating point the your target audience, a method used in comparing broadcast media. One rating point equals 1 percent of the target audience. Divide the cost of the schedule being considered by the number of rating points it delivers.
- Impact - does the medium in question offer full opportunities for appealing to the appropriate senses, such as sight and hearing, in its graphic design and production quality?
- Selectivity - to what degree can the message be restricted to those people who are known to be the most logical prospects?
Reach and frequency are important aspects of an advertising plan and are used to analyze alternative advertising schedules to determine which produce the best results relative to the media plan's objectives.
Calculate reach and frequency and then compare the two on the basis of how many people will be reached with each schedule and the number of times the ad will connect with the average person. Let's say the ad appeared in each of four television programs (A, B, C, D), and each program has a 20 rating, resulting in a total of 80 gross rating points. It's possible that some viewers will see more than one announcement—some viewers of program A might also see program B, C, or D, or any combination of them.
For example, in a population of 100 TV homes, a total of 40 are exposed to one or more TV programs. The reach of the four programs combined is therefore 40 percent (40 homes reached divided by the 100 TV-home population).
Researchers have charted the reach achieved with different media schedules. These tabulations are put into formulas from which the level of delivery (reach) for any given schedule can be estimated. A reach curve is the technical term describing how reach changes with increasing use of a medium.
Now assume the same schedule of one commercial in each of four TV programs (A, B, C, D) to determine reach versus frequency. In our example, 17 homes viewed only one program, 11 homes viewed two programs, seven viewed three programs, and five homes viewed all four programs. If we add the number of programs each home viewed, the 40 homes in total viewed the equivalent of 80 programs and therefore were exposed to the equivalent of 80 commercials. By dividing 80 by 40, we establish that any one home was exposed to an average of two commercials.
To increase reach, include additional media in the plan or expand the timing of the message. For example, if purchasing "drive time" on the radio, some daytime and evening spots will increase the audience. To increase frequency, add spots or insertions to the schedule. For example, if running three insertions in a local magazine, increase that to six insertions so that the audience would be exposed to the ad more often.
Gross rating points (GRPs) are used to estimate broadcast reach and frequency from tabulations and formulas. Once the schedule delivery has been determined from reach curves, obtain the average frequency by dividing the GRPs by the reach. For example, 200 GRPs divided by an 80 percent reach equals a 2.5 average frequency.
Frequency is important because it takes a while to build up awareness and break through the consumer's selection process. Repetition is the key word here. For frequency, it is better to advertise regularly in small spaces than it is to have a one-time expensive advertising extravaganza.
Tools used in Media Planning
- Online Advertising Research Tools - Alexa, Nielsen Online, Quantcast, SimilarWeb, Thalamus, SRDS, and Compete
- Online Advertising Competitive Intelligence Tools - MOAT, Adgooroo, Adbeat, Whatrunswhere, Keywordspy 
- Demand-side Platforms - MediaMath, DataXu, Doubleclick Bid Manager, Turn, AppNexus, Adobe Media Optimizer
- Offline Advertising Research Tools - Nielsen Media Research for TV Audience Measurement GRPs, Nielsen Audio for Radio Measurement (previously known as Arbitron), SRDS by Kantar Media for Print Advertising Ratecards
- Mahdizadeh, Molabashi, T. 1393: 25) (PhD thesis media manager T. Mahdi Zadeh Molabashi Dr. Nasrollahi, Dr. Fayyaz& Dr.poursadegh in the International University of Imam Reza Mashhad, Iran)
- Ellis, Shelley. "Tools For Spying On Your Competitor’s Display Ads". Marketingland. Marketingland. Retrieved 12 September 2015.