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Media planning is dead

The pace of change is the slowest it will ever be right now. In this digital world, traditional media planning cycles are too slow. They lack agility and don’t connect with consumer intent. Today's currency is being able to react, respond, and add value to specific micro moments at an individual level. How do you adjust for the real time world?

Jeremy Cornfeldt, president at iProspect, and Sam Huston, chief strategy officer at iProspect, suggested to iMedia Breakthrough Summit attendees in Santa Barbara, California that media planning, as we all know it, is dead. But they had plenty of insight to back that up.

Cornfeldt explained that while he and Huston work at a performance agency, they grew up doing media planning. As a performance agency, their job is to react and respond in real time.

"When we're in-market, we're having a massive impact," he said. "But how do we get into the market faster?"

Expectation economy

Huston noted that it's not uncommon for someone to go to buy a product and know more than the people selling it.

"You're no longer just competing with someone in your category, but everyone in the world," he said. "It's a challenge for brands to keep up in this 'expectation economy.'" This economy is inhabited by experienced, well-informed consumers who have a long list of high expectations that they apply to each and every good, service, and experience on offer. Meeting those expectations becomes a difficult thing.

Google's Pixel phone is a great example. The brand has given us everything we want in a phone, and yet we're still unhappy with it. A headline read, "The Pixel phone is exactly what we wanted, so of course we're unhappy."

Happier customers

Huston's clients are not only asking them to accelerate growth, but then they want iProspect to make happier customers. That happens when you build stronger relationships with media, and remove friction from process and fewer barriers, which gives brands permission to provide an enhanced experience.

Brands must have different conversations with consumers, and that requires a different type of agency. It doesn't start with psychographics. It starts with understanding interest and intent. Intent data, which includes things like search data and social data, should be aligned with audiences and used in real time.

"As a strategist, I've spent my entire life understanding audiences," Huston said. "Audience planning is no longer enough to drive success. We have to look at the world differently."

A new way to look at audiences

Looking at audiences is not going to work on its own. You don't want to be reductive -- starting big and pulling back. Instead of buying millions of impressions against that and the inevitable waste, marketers need to find a way to use all the data to identify intent.

Start planning against intent and not audiences. You should be buying against individuals and not impressions. This gives you the opportunity to earn more.

In this world, we're making a fundamental shift to spend against a data point and not an impression. These are the data points that are going to shift the consumer and the way they think about the brand.

Cornfeldt explained that this is the way to cut planning time down by 80 percent. Instead of months, it can be a matter of days. "When we're in-market, that's when we get the best learnings," he said.

Data is the currency of building, Huston said, and usable data is at critical mass. The data they're producing is actionable.

The important thing is that we're not underscoring the importance of people. It's about understanding and building audiences in a new way. Rather than starting from huge audiences, let's focus on intent. It's not about a demographic. It's about what their actions are telling us.

Systems of insight

Brands should use systems of insight to build media structures designed to expand over time and accelerate growth. iProspect recently joined its data and strategy teams to connect all their learnings together.

It's about planting the right seed in the right pot and then allowing it to grow over time to create a learning organization. "Every dollar spent makes us fundamentally smarter," Cornfeldt said. "That's what's going to satisfy the need about not only driving sales, but creating a happy relationship."

"We know for certain that the future belongs to the fast," he continued. "The pace of change is quick right now, but it's only going to be faster. As marketers, we need to take all this information and turn it into action quickly. That's why we believe that media planning as a craft is dead."

Nanette is iMedia Communications' executive editor.   In addition to her roles at iMedia, Nanette has served as a specialist in content marketing, editorial content, public relations and social media for various clients. She's contributed to...

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