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Should 2014 be the ‘Coming of Age’ of Broadcast Media Planning?

As is tradition at the start of a New Year, many of us are reflecting on the past year and speculate as to what the New Year could have to offer. At JWM we have paused across the Christmas period to look back over the last 12 months and collectively debate what the biggest challenges and issues were facing the broadcasters that we worked with, whether in Europe or further afield in the southern hemisphere. Although there were many similar issues and challenges, the one thing that struck us was the growing recognition of the contribution that media planning can make to the success of marketing activities and its growing importance for broadcasters. Hence, we ask the question:

Could 2014 be the ‘coming of age’ of broadcast media planning?

For many broadcasters, not all, but many… it is only in recent years that the editorial teams of broadcasters and marketers themselves have shifted their focus from mainly off-air, paid for marketing activities, to the realisation of the value and potential of strategically planned, insight driven on-air promotion across their growing portfolio of broadcast services & platforms. This increased focus is by no means coincidental. We would speculate to say that a combination of harder economic times, with less budget for marketing activities, combined with the fragmentation of TV audiences across an explosion of TV channels through digitalisation of broadcast, has led to the realisation that broadcasters have to work harder than ever to compete for viewers. Hence there is increasing reliance on effective marketing activities to not only build audiences for programmes but also to create strong media brands.

To add to this, across 2013, there was considerable commentary on the rapid growth in VOD, non-linear and OTT (over the top) services both in terms of distribution and also in terms of consumer consumption. Netflix is an often cited success story and one which we ourselves have observed with surprise; its speed of growth in both the US and selected Northern European markets has been phenomenal and is a constant source of conversation when we have worked with broadcasters in these markets. In Denmark for example, it is the sixth largest television ‘channel’ and constitutes 30% of peak internet traffic in the US. Added to this, for some markets, the UK being one, high PVR penetration is yet another threat to the dominance of traditional linear broadcast.

However, we often forget, as we worry about the future of TV, that TV is actually stronger than ever. Audiences gravitate to great telly and have a huge appetite for it! Why else would we continue to see continued year on year growth in TV consumption across many markets in recent years, including China, France, Spain, Netherlands – and this excludes VOD! What we do need to recognise and adjust to is that audiences are increasingly finding new ways to consume TV content, although linear is still by far the biggest component of this, VOD and PVR are constantly increasing their share of audience viewing.

You may question if this really matters – as long as audiences are continuing to value content created by broadcasters. Does it really matter when, where or how they consume this? This is maybe an argument that non-commercially funded public service broadcasters can use, unlike those commercially funded broadcasters that need to monetise their content across all platforms.

HOWEVER... when it comes to marketing your content, services and building a strong media brand, then YES it does matter – irrespective of how you are funded! The biggest challenge for broadcast marketing is how can broadcasters continue to own and market their content to audiences, when there is such a range of platforms & devices on which audiences can consume this content?

This is why we pose the question about the ‘coming of age’ of broadcast media planning. We would suggest that this changing landscape is probably the biggest opportunity for broadcast media planning to increasingly add value for a broadcaster and its marketing activities.

By nature, media planners should have a combination of skills, most importantly those being the understanding of audience insight and behaviour; knowledge of the properties of different types of media platforms and audience consumption of those media; how to implement different types of communication strategies with a range of audience groups; the ability to plan campaigns cross-platform that are effective and editorially appropriate for a range of audiences and importantly be platform/channel/service neutral in managing the promotional inventory of their broadcaster. As campaigns need to reflect the changing audience behaviours, they will need to become more complex and sophisticated. There is a growing need for a skillset that can identify and produce campaigns that understand how, where and when to communicate to audiences across an ever-growing range of media services and platforms. The need for specialist broadcast media planning has never been greater, and an area that we help broadcasters achieve. (You could also add that alongside this, the ability for the Creative team to be able to deliver across a wider range of promotional assets, beyond a 30 second promo is also greater than ever... but that is another subject for another day).

Many broadcasters have in place media planning teams, albeit of various levels of expertise. Even those few teams that ARE well versed in the science of media planning, and take a cross-media approach and are able to plan strategically rather than tactically, have challenges ahead.

2014 is probably the greatest opportunity for broadcast media planning to make its mark within broadcasters. To really excel at this, we would hope that 2014 would include some of the following:

  • The ability to think AND implement cross-media, not just within the confines of a selection of linear TV channels. The harsh reality is that despite broadcasters having a portfolio of channels & services, silo thinking is still common. In particular we find that when broadcasters develop their own platforms and means of content distribution; the ability to promote and market to audiences consuming content on these platforms is generally under valued and frequently overlooked. It is often a secondary thought and hence very limited in its capability or playing second fiddle to commercial requirements.

  • The ability to innovate and to test new concepts and hence adapt promotional techniques and tools by platform. Rather than the approach being just to find a space on a new platform where you can place your 30” TV or radio promotion, what about shaping promotion tailored to the unique properties of each individual media?

  • Access to audience insight and media consumption data. Netflix, Hulu and some of the more innovative broadcasters across the globe recognise the value of data. Both Netflix and Hulu rely greatly on the insight that data can give them and as a result can be highly targeted in how they promote and recommend content to their customers. Thankfully in many markets, there is increasingly more insight and data about non-linear content consumption and the relationship between content and social media. In the UK for example, the Sky platform has developed the ability to highly target both advertising and promotion. Imagine different households consuming the same content but being delivered different advertising and promotion – promotion that is relevant to that household, based on insight about that household in terms of its linear and non-linear content consumption Immediately you can analyse, target and communicate with audiences not only based on demographic data but on their content preferences and habits.

  • Campaign and promotional strategies that engage and start conversations. Traditionally TV promotion has been one directional from broadcaster to audience, but increasingly it needs to reflect the desires for audiences to interact and feel involved.

  • Longer term strategies and plans, not a campaign-by-campaign approach. This is becoming increasingly important as content lifecycles extend beyond their linear life and a longer term approach is vital to maintain a healthy media brand in an increasingly cluttered market.

  • And finally... not that we are big advocates of ‘bean counting’, the ability to evaluate, learn and go some way to understanding ROI.

Achieving all the above really would be the ‘holy grail’ for broadcast media planning but probably, for the time being, limited to a handful of established broadcasters in a few selected markets. However, there is no denying that more and more broadcasters across the globe are investing and recognising the role of broadcast media and marketing planning in contributing to their success in challenging times... if this continues then 2014 could really be the year that broadcast media planning ‘comes of age’.

Please feel free to give feedback on the above opinion piece. Should you be interested in exploring how JWM could possibly help your broadcast organisation then please contact us

Jo Wilkinson, January 2014



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