Your Media Mix During Chaotic Times – What Now?

July 21, 2020

A year ago, the “perfect storm” for advertisers looking for the correct media mix was driven by things like, a complex consumer ecosystem, ever-increasing channels and shrinking marketing budgets. While these challenges still exist, they seem almost trivial.

Under today’s global pandemic cloud and heightened awareness of social issues, last year’s challenges while real, should be considered status quo—things are just plain hard in a fragmented, multi-channel media landscape.

The recent ad boycott of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by advertisers has sent a major message. Companies across the country have put social platforms on notice, demanding they help stop the spread of hate, racism and misinformation. Until then, advertisers will spend these budgeted dollars elsewhere. Some have pulled all media through the end of July. Some major CPGs have taken a make-no-mistake approach and halted their entire social media plan until at least 2021.

If your company has raised its social media voice, is reworking a plan after Covid-19 impacts or decided to step back and avoid adding noise during an election year, you’re likely facing a difficult question: Now what?

  • Is it time to reanalyze and reset your media plan?
  • What should this seismic shift look like, and where are your dollars best spent?
  • Are you comfortable in how you are communicating to your customers as their behaviors have changed over the past 4 months? Do you know enough those new behaviors?
  • Is there a proven plan during this time?

Because this is unprecedented and we’re in the midst of this all playing out, there is no playbook. The best right now is to take a simple approach to the challenging media-mix question: WHAT NOW?

1. Don’t Disappear

Sure, your media plan will pivot, twist and turn. It may even shift to different channels or strategies in dramatic ways. But, the saying, “In good times, you should advertise. In bad times, you must advertise,” still applies.

While some social media plans are paused, it doesn’t mean all advertising should stop. After all, you need to stay connected to your consumers in ways that better their lives and going completely dark will not do that.

Research backs this. Companies that maintain or increase marketing spend during recessionary periods drive incremental revenue and market share growth during both the downturn and long after.

In the short term, social media ad dollars are going to find their way into new channels. Some will go to other digital platforms. Some may shift to more traditional buys, like direct mail or print.

Good media plans never stop looking for ways to reach targeted audiences. Great media plans include the next step.

2. Test, test again, retest

This singular point may be as close to “business as usual” as we’ll get in the foreseeable future.

Every media planner knows the best way to beat last year is to stay agile. Always look for opportunities to improve the performance of every media dollar spent. To do that, you have to have a robust testing process.

If you haven’t done something in the past, you need to test it. It’s time to be bold and think strategically. Look at the top of the funnel and the bottom. Put preconceived notions aside and begin testing in areas that have been put on the “back burner” or even forgotten.

3. Be skeptical of historical modeling

Should a media plan be scrapped and replaced? Yes, if it relies solely on historical models for which you have no data. Media Mix Models (MMM) look at ad-spend performance over the past one to three years. Historical trend data drives decisions when using this approach.

At this time, putting precious dollars to historical data is risky. Social change and an economic reboot will happen. But, there is no historical data that adequately represents what we’re experiencing and what is around the corner.

Use this time to your advantage. Build a deeper understanding of attribution models that deliver real-time media-mix data. And then build the muscle and skills to develop measurement routines and systems to make better decisions. Ramp up measurement to daily, weekly or monthly reporting. Search for ways or methods to measure both online and offline media efforts as a mix rather than one-offs.

4. Micro-manage the new media mix

If you thought media responsiveness and effectiveness were about the same across DMAs, Covid-19 has certainly changed that. Some DMAs are open for business, while others are closing. Expect periodic cycles through the back half of 2020 and into 2021.

As a result, your media plans should be focused on using the most cost-effective channel mix for each DMA. It can be daunting to deal with this level of granularity, but it can unlock a great deal of value.

Media-mix spending may look much different in a post-2020 world, but if you stay diligent, challenge your thinking and ramp up testing and reporting, you can position your company to win in a vastly different world.

Quad media team and digital partner Rise Interactive live and breathe this complex media environment every day. Staying on the leading edge of new ways to measure media performance in more timely, predictive ways to connect your online and offline media performance is what we do. Bring questions to us; bring challenges to us; bring media needs to us. We will work with you to come out of these unprecedented times stronger and better.