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7 Deadly Sins of Online Media Planning

  |  May 18, 2010   |  Comments

If you want to get in to media planning heaven, avoid these common sins.

This week, I thought I'd have a little fun. Most of us are familiar with the traditional notion of the seven deadly sins (pride, wrath, greed, sloth, gluttony, lust, envy), but how about sin in online media planning? Well actually, it's not such a stretch.

Sin No. 1: Ignorance

The field of online (or digital) media planning evolves so quickly that if you simply rely on your past experience as a means to deliver future performance, you're going to be left in the dust. Today's online media planner must constantly read about new technologies (e.g., targeting, mobile, planning tools/aids) and new trends (social, applications), if not to use them now, to at least know about them for later.

Sin No. 2: Silence

Good media planners can't be worried about stupid questions. It's your job to be on the frontline of the online campaign so you must understand your client, their products, competitors, goals, metrics, past research, target audiences and areas, and past campaign performances.

You must clarify roles, expectations, processes, and procedures: who's on the team? Is this going to be an integrated campaign with other media or channels - how so? Are other agencies involved? Who takes the lead and who makes the final decisions? Is this person easily accessible or do you need to build in more lead time to accommodate her schedule? Work closely with your creative team and contribute your ideas. At the same time, challenge the publishers so you can get the best placement opportunities for your advertiser. Speak up!

Sin No. 3: Lacking Strategic Thinking

True online media planning doesn't come easy. You have to: have vision, understand numbers, be a critical thinker, analyze and assess many different opportunities and directions all at one time, and be able to communicate well. Strategic thinking is not the equivalent of putting three-quarters of an advertiser's budget into an ad network. Think about testing, minimum buy-ins, and outclauses. What's not even on the table from a publisher that could be? The thought process is more crucial than the plan itself.

Sin No. 4: Cookie-Cutter Media Planning

With growing competition in our industry, cookie-cutter media planning will not cut it in the long-term. You can't just do for one advertiser what you've done for another (or just copy-cat how an advertiser's competitor might be advertising) - there are just too many options out there, and client goals and products vary. These days, advertisers expect innovation, not run-of-the-mill. They want solid rationales, not business-as-usual. They want us on our toes, not taking the easy way out.

Sin No. 5: Running the Plan with No Follow-Up

Just because the client signed off and the plan is in someone else's hands to execute doesn't mean you should check out. You need to work in concert with the rest of your team to ensure your plan is implemented correctly. If there are hiccups during the final negotiations because inventory holds were released or after campaign launch there are severely under-performing placements to contend with, you need to be prepared to act. It also goes without saying that you'll want to audit and monitor the campaign and read the data reports, but you may also want to provide feedback to your publishers. For that matter, you may also want to let publishers who didn't make your plan know why.

Sin No. 6: Launching the Campaign When Nobody's Home

It might seem like the obvious, but planning to launch a campaign where the launch date ends up being on a Friday or holiday makes no sense and yet happens all the time. Sometimes it's because no one's paying attention; other times the client sets the date and no one had the courage to speak up (see Sin No. 2). A similar shortcoming happens when campaign launch dates are chosen but the planner or buyer will actually be away on vacation, so no one's seeing it. One or two disasters spells doom for those involved.

Sin No. 7: Neglecting to Learn Your Lessons

Online media planning requires us all to be constant students at every phase. We learn as much from what didn't work or what went wrong as we do from what did work. If you don't constantly reflect and learn your lessons, don't expect to be a long-term success in this business.

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Hollis Thomases

A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."

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